Medical Malpractice Basic Requirements
While the majority of healthcare providers aim to maintain the highest standard of care for all patents, there are times when things can go gravely wrong. If you feel like when you go to the doctor, you’re not getting the attention you need, or that the doctor was rushed and barely gave you the time of day, or you suspect that you may have been misdiagnosed – you’re not alone.
But it's important to keep in mind that just because something goes wrong—or your condition goes from bad to worse—that doesn't always mean you have a legitimate medical malpractice claim.
Let’s take a look at the basic requirements for a medical malpractice claim. To prove that medical malpractice occurred, you must be able to show all of the following:
A relationship existed
To file a medical malpractice claim, there must be a patient-doctor relationship. For example, you can't sue a doctor you overheard giving medical advice at a party. Instead, this means you hired the doctor and the doctor agreed to see you as a patient. If a doctor began seeing you and treating you, it is easy to prove a physician-patient relationship existed.
The doctor was negligent
All medical malpractice lawsuits boil down to whether the expected standard of care was provided. Standard of care refers to the expertise one can reasonably expect to receive from any physician with a similar level of training and experience. A substandard level of care is deemed as negligence and paves the path for a viable malpractice case.
In other words, to sue for malpractice, you must be able to show that the doctor caused you harm in a way that a competent doctor, under the same circumstances, would not have. The doctor's care is not required to be the best possible per se, but simply "reasonably skillful and careful." Whether the doctor was reasonably skillful and careful is often at the heart of a medical malpractice claim. In addition, Pennsylvania requires the patient to present a medical expert to discuss the appropriate medical standard of care and show how the medical professional deviated from that standard.
Negligence caused the injury
Proving that the doctor in question made an error, or was negligent in his or her care towards you, is not enough to bring forth a medical malpractice lawsuit. This can be tricky, as many cases involve patients that were already sick or injured, because “healthy” people do not tend to go to the doctor unnecessarily. The patient must show that it is "more likely than not" that the doctor's negligence directly resulted in, or further complicated, illness or injury.
For example, if you just had an operation on your ACL, and were given instructions to stay off of it for an extended period of time, and instead helped a friend move and hurt it further, the doctor would not be negligent in this case.
The injury led to specific damages
Even if it is clear that the doctor performed below the expected standards in his or her field, you can't sue for malpractice if you didn't suffer any harm (aka “damages”). This can include past, current and future:
- physical pain
- mental anguish
- additional medical bills
- lost work and lost earning capacity
Important: Statute of Limitations
Most states have statutes of limitations that define the amount of time during which an individual can file a lawsuit claiming injury related to medical malpractice, negligence, or personal injury. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for these claims is 2 years. It is critical to contact an attorney early enough so a case can be made by the 2 year time-frame.
Scartelli Olszewski, P.C. has been handling complex medical malpractice cases for nearly two decades and our success in winning these cases is well-known. Because there is a Statute of Limitations, you should not delay in contacting a Scranton medical malpractice lawyer. If you or a loved one were the victim of a medical malpractice or medical negligence, contact us today for a free consultation. You can reach our experienced medical malpractice attorney, Melissa Scartelli, via phone: 570-346-2600.
*In this blog, doctor and healthcare professional or healthcare provider can be interchanged, as any healthcare professional or provider can deviate from the accepted standard of care, resulting in medical malpractice.