What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is professional negligence by act or omission by a health care provider in which care that is provided deviates from accepted standards of practice in the medical community. The doctor or medical professional’s act or failure to act in these cases causes injury or death to patients.
All medical professionals in the United States are required to maintain professional liability insurance to offset the risk and costs of medical malpractice lawsuits. If you have suffered medical problems or have lost a loved one because of medical negligence, then you are victim of medical malpractice and may be entitled to file a medical malpractice claim.
Filing the claim
The first step in a Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawsuit is to file the claim or lawsuit in court. The complaint generally states the general nature of the allegations being made against the doctor, hospital or medical professional. The person who files the claim is called a plaintiff and the person or entity the claim is filed against is called a defendant. The law requires the plaintiff to give the defendants at least 90 days notice that a malpractice action will be initiated.
After the medical malpractice lawsuit is filed in court, the attorneys for both sides conduct what is known as “discovery.” This process involves sending written questions, requesting documents and taking depositions, which are basically interviewing witnesses under oath. Depositions given by witnesses may be used during a trial. In medical malpractice cases, typically, there is also a need to hire expert witnesses and have their depositions taken. The law clearly defines certain rules regarding the manner in which each party can conduct discovery. This is a process that can take several months or even years depending on the availability of witnesses.
The parties may settle the dispute at any point in the litigation process. The decision to settle a case is complex and depends on a number of factors. As the case proceeds toward trial, there may be one or more “mediations,” which are formal settlement meetings. Sometimes, cases will settle before trial, but in many Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases, there is no settlement and the case must go to trial.
Most medical malpractice cases are decided by a jury of 12 people selected by the parties in court. The jury will determine whether each defendant committed malpractice. The court will instruct the jury that physician is negligent and liable for damages suffered by a plaintiff if the defendant’s care and treatment of the plaintiff fell below the standard of care exercised by physicians under similar circumstances. If a jury finds the defendant to have been negligent, then jurors must determine the extent to which the plaintiff has suffered damages including medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering.
The losing party always has the right to appeal a verdict to an appellate court. An appellate court can reverse an adverse verdict and either order a new trial or enter a new verdict. A losing party can then appeal the appellate court decision to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has the power to refuse to hear an appeal. The appeal process could take several years to complete.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, please contact a skilled Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney at Anapol Schwartz for a free consultation. We will guide you through the complex legal process, fight for your legal rights every step of the way and make sure you get the justice and compensation you rightfully deserve.