Doctors and other healthcare providers are routinely called upon to make decisions that may seriously affect the health and safety of their patients. While medical professionals help their patients far more often than they hurt them, these professionals may be held legally responsible when an error in judgment or a failure to act is found to constitute negligence—or medical malpractice—under the law. When a medical professional’s negligence is determined to have caused a patient’s injury or death, the professional may be held liable for damages suffered by the injured patient or deceased patient’s survivors in a personal-injury or wrongful-death medical-malpractice action.
If you have been injured or one of your family members has died as a result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation through legal action. The Killino Firm’s Pennsylvania medical-malpractice attorneys have extensive experience with medical-malpractice cases and can help you obtain justice from those responsible for your injury or loved one’s death. Contact The Killino Firm at 877-875-2927 for a cost-free evaluation of your case and additional information about your legal rights and options.
Legal Liability for Injuries or Deaths Caused by Medical Malpractice
All medical professionals are held to a duty under the law to exercise reasonable care for the health and safety of any patient under their care or treatment. A deviation from this standard of care, which may also be termed a breach of the standard of care, is considered a specific form of negligence called medical malpractice. In any medical-malpractice action, a plaintiff will be required to establish 1) the level or standard of care owed by the defendant medical professional to the injured patient under the circumstances that gave rise to the cause of action, 2) that the required duty of care was breached by the defendant (i.e., that the defendant was negligent), and 3) that the negligence was a cause of the patient’s personal injury or death with resultant damages to the patient or the patient’s survivors. These elements of a medical-malpractice action will generally be established, at least in part, through the testimony of experts in medical care, injury causation, and damages.
When a patient’s injury or death is determined to have been caused by a defendant medical professional’s negligence, the defendant may be required to pay certain damages found to have been sustained by the plaintiff as a result of the patient’s injury or wrongful death. In addition to compensatory damages (which compensate a plaintiff for actual losses sustained), plaintiffs may also be awarded punitive damages in Pennsylvania medical-malpractice actions for a healthcare provider’s willful or wanton conduct or reckless indifference to the rights of others. 40 P.S. § 1303.505 (a). Except in cases in which intentional misconduct has been alleged, however, punitive damages against an individual physician cannot exceed 200% of the compensatory damages awarded. 40 P.S. § 1303.505 (d).
Types of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice can be committed by one or more medical professionals at any stage of a patient’s care and in a great many ways. A nurse who interviews a patient at an office visit and incorrectly records vital signs or information received from the patient, for example, may be found liable for the patient’s subsequent injury if the misinformation is found to have prevented a doctor’s timely diagnosis of the patient’s illness or health-threatening condition. A physician who negligently fails to take a patient’s description of symptoms seriously, fails to consider or screen for indicated conditions or illnesses, or fails to adequately follow-up or treat recognized or suspected conditions or illnesses may likewise be found legally responsible for injury or death of the patient that could have been prevented by the doctor’s adequate care.
Medical malpractice may also occur when patients are admitted to hospitals or other healthcare facilities and receive substandard care. Nurses and other medical personnel who administer the wrong medications or improper doses of medications to patients may be found liable for patient injuries determined to have been caused by such negligent care. Physicians who negligently perform surgeries or other medical personnel who negligently assist in these procedures may also be held legally accountable for resultant injuries and deaths to patients.
Clinics, hospitals, and other medical facilities, as separate corporate or other business entities, may also be held either directly or indirectly liable for injuries and deaths negligently caused to patients under their care. Such entities may be found directly liable for negligently screening, hiring, training, and retaining employees whose own negligence is found to have caused a patient’s injury or death. They may also be found directly liable for patient injuries and deaths determined to have been caused by, among other things, negligent maintenance and cleaning of equipment, instruments, and facilities, and the inadequate institution and enforcement of protocols. These entities may also be held indirectly liable for patient injuries or deaths caused by the negligence of an employee that was committed in the course of the employee’s employment.
The negligence of medical professionals may result in serious injury or death to patients. If you have been injured or one of your family members has died as a result of medical malpractice, The Killino Firm’s Pennsylvania medical-malpractice lawyers can help you fight for justice from the responsible parties. Contact us at 877-875-2927 for expert and compassionate assistance with your case.