Every state, including Pennsylvania, has its own laws regarding medical malpractice. But the basics of what constitutes medical negligence and what is acceptable care from a doctor or hospital are virtually the same across the country.
Proving a case of malpractice in court
If a doctor negligently harmed you while you were in their care, you must prove the following four things:
- The doctor owed you a duty of due care, i.e., they took you on as a patient
- The doctor’s violated their duty by providing care that fell below the legal standard of care
- You suffered harm as a direct result of this negligent care
- The harm is compensable in some way
The “legal standard of care” is defined as what a similar physician from the same region would have done under the same or similar circumstances. The question is not necessarily whether the treatment was successful. The law asks whether the doctor accused of malpractice deviated unreasonably from the usual course of diagnosis and treatment for a particular set of symptoms. The process is similar in wrongful death claims involving malpractice, except that the personal representative of the deceased’s estate is the one to file suit.
Proving that your doctor’s conduct fell below the duty of care they owed you can require highly technical evidence. Expert witnesses, generally other physicians, are often brought in to analyze your medical records and other evidence and explain, in their opinion, if there was malpractice.
Compensable harm from medical negligence
Harm from medical negligence can mean you had a condition that worsened due to misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment. Or you could have lost a body part unnecessarily because the surgeon operated on the wrong part of your body. Damages like this can require further treatment to undo the damage caused by the negligent doctor. Medical bills tied to negligence are compensable, as are things like lost wages, pain and suffering and lost quality of life.
For many victims of incompetent physicians and poorly run medical facilities, a medical malpractice lawsuit is the only way to get the fair compensation they are legally entitled to.