Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice

Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice Lawyers

WHAT IS MEDICAL MALPRACTICE?

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider falls below the standard of care, and harms or causes the death of a patient.

Errors can and far too often occur in the hospital, nursing home, or doctor's office. Just as a driver is held accountable under the law for injuries caused to another by running a red light, so too are healthcare professionals and institutions legally responsible for harm caused by violating standards of care generally recognized and accepted by the medical community.

Professional malpractice is not just limited to physicians. It extends to other healthcare providers including physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, chiropractors, dentists, emergency medical technicians, and laboratory technicians. Hospitals, nursing and personal care homes, and other medical facilities may also be held directly liable for corporate negligence. Institutional or corporate negligence may arise in a number of different contexts including:

  • Inadequate staffing
  • Improperly maintained facilities and equipment
  • Extension of privileges to incompetent physicians
  • Failure to adequately supervise medical practitioners
  • Failure to create or enforce policies necessary for patient safety
  • Other unacceptable practices placing corporate profit above patient safety

Over 250,000 deaths occur in the United States every year because of substandard medical care, according to a recent study undertaken by Johns Hopkins medical researchers. Medical error is now ranked as the third leading cause of death in the United States, just behind heart disease and cancer. As long as the healthcare industry fails to adequately police itself, there will be a need for medical malpractice lawsuits to provide fair compensation for the preventable deaths and injuries resulting from carelessness and inattention.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE A VALID CLAIM?

It is rare for a physician or the hospital staff to admit fault or responsibility before a lawsuit is filed. When you or someone close to you suffers an unexpected outcome following medical treatment, how do you know whether you have a legitimate claim, particularly if you lack medical training.

For example, what if you have periodically undergone screening tests for cancer like mammograms, pap smears, PSA blood tests, or colonoscopies, the results of which have been reported to you as normal, and you are later diagnosed with an advanced stage of breast, cervical, prostate, or colon cancer. How do you know that these previous screening or diagnostic tests were properly analyzed and interpreted? Were suspicious areas overlooked? Was there a communication breakdown, so that abnormal results requiring follow-up were not reported to you or your doctor in a timely manner? Were specimens or studies mislabeled or mixed up with another patient?

In medicine today, there are economic pressures which all too often lead to the delivery of high volume, impersonal, or assembly line care. Healthcare professionals may be well qualified, but do not have the time to pay attention and provide the proper care you deserve.

What should you do if you haven't been given answers to your questions, or the answers don't make sense? How do you go about discovering the truth of what really happened?

The first step is to consult with an attorney experienced in this area of the law. Let Art Schwarzwaelder's 35 years of experience in handling medical malpractice cases work for you in evaluating whether you have a viable claim, and if so, in vigorously representing your interests with the goal of achieving full and fair compensation.

WHAT IS ART SCHWARZWAELDER'S EXPERIENCE IN MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAW?

Over the years, the scope of Art's practice in the field of medical malpractice has been extensive. He has been retained to investigate or pursue a multitude of wrongful death and personal injury claims arising from:

  • Brain Injuries
  • Spinal Cord and Cauda Equina Injuries
  • Birth Injuries
  • Missed or Delayed Diagnosis
  • Improper or Inadequate Medical Treatment
  • Surgical Mishaps
  • Medication Errors
  • Retained Surgical Materials (i.e. Sponges)
  • Misinterpretation of Medical Imaging
  • Inadequate Staffing
  • Wrong Site Surgery

More specifically, Art has served or is currently representing Clients in litigation involving the following subjects:

  • Delayed C-Section resulting in Catastrophic Birth Injuries or Death
  • Mismanagement of Fetal Head Entrapment
  • Delayed Diagnosis and Treatment of Cancers of the Breast, Cervix, Prostate, Skin (Malignant Melanoma), and Bile Ducts (Cholangiocarcinoma)
  • Delayed diagnosis and treatment of various diseases including Unstable Angina or Heart Attack, Stroke, Hydrocephalus, Pulmonary Embolism, Intestinal Ischemia, Testicular Torsion, Necrotizing Fasciitis (Flesh-Eating Bacteria), Sepsis, Pneumonia, Adrenal Crisis, and Cardiac Tamponade
  • Medical Errors causing Brain Injuries, Blindness, and Death
  • Botched Gall Bladder Surgery
  • Mismanagement of Anticoagulants including Heparin and Coumadin/Warfarin
  • Negligent monitoring of Blood Glucose/Sugar
  • Failure to timely recognize and stop Post-Operative Bleeding, resulting in Death
  • Misreading of Medical Imaging including Mammograms
  • Misinterpretation of Pap Smears and Pathology Slides
  • Communications Break Downs and other Errors in the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, Laboratory, Hospital Floor, and Physician's Office

Art has successfully represented many Clients who have obtained substantial monetary recoveries. These include Multimillion Dollar Recoveries.

WHAT DOES OUR FIRM HAVE TO OFFER?

We are available to speak with you to review the facts of your medical malpractice claim. If warranted by the circumstances of your case, our office will:

  • Obtain all relevant medical and hospital records, imaging, tissue specimens, and pathology slides
  • Conduct necessary medical and legal research
  • Submit your records for review by one or more qualified medical experts who practice in the same or similar subspecialties as the potential defendants
  • Advise you of your legal rights and options,
  • File and prosecute a lawsuit on your behalf

As required under the applicable Rules of Court in Pennsylvania, our office will only file a lawsuit if a qualified expert has verified in writing that your case has merit.

WHAT ARE THE TIME LIMITS FOR FILING SUIT IN A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASE UNDER PENNSYLVANIA LAW?

Medical malpractice actions are subject to time limits called statutes of limitations.

Generally, in Pennsylvania, an adult victim of medical malpractice has two (2) years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit against the responsible healthcare providers. Commencing suit after the statute of limitations has expired will result in automatic dismissal of all claims.

There are exceptions to the general rule barring medical malpractice lawsuits filed more than two (2) years after the date of injury. One exception is known as "the discovery rule"

The discovery rule applies to situations where patients do not know or have reason to know that they have been injured as a result of the acts or omissions of their healthcare providers. For example, let's assume a woman's mammogram is misread in 2012, but she did not know or have reason to suspect an error until 2014, at which time she was first diagnosed with Advanced Breast Cancer. The applicable two year statute of limitations would not begin running until 2014 at the earliest, when the patient first learned of her malignancy. Thus, this medical malpractice claim based upon a delay in diagnosing and treating breast cancer could be timely filed in 2016, or within two years of the date that the patient first learned of her cancer diagnosis, even though her injuries from the progression of this untreated disease began on an earlier date.

The discovery rule similarly applies to patients who suffer injuries from retained foreign objects such as surgical sponges or instruments, which, without the patients' knowledge, are negligently left in their body by their surgeons, or overlooked by the operating room nurses responsible for instrument counts. However, the discovery rule does not apply to wrongful death actions, which must be brought within two (2) years of death.

Another exception in Pennsylvania to the two (2) year statute of limitations applies to children. When a child is the victim of substandard medical care, the law extends the time for filing suit for the child's injuries until the child's twentieth (20 th) birthday.

In 2002, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted a seven (7) year statute of repose applicable to most medical malpractice claims arising after April 20, 2002. However, cases involving injuries to minors or cases involving retained objects are not subject to this seven (7) year outer time limit.

As you can see, this area of the law involving deadlines for bringing lawsuits, or determining when the two (2) year statute of limitations begins running may be fact specific and complicated. There may be other exceptions which extend the applicable deadlines including instances where the responsible healthcare providers fraudulently concealed information from their patients, which denied these patients notice of the need to investigate. You should not assume that your claims are time barred before conferring with an experienced attorney.

The important point here is to preserve your legal rights by promptly consulting an attorney knowledgeable in medical malpractice law as soon as possible after you first learn that you or someone close to you has suffered unexpected harm or death following medical treatment. Let an experienced professional help you during this difficult time when your primary focus is and should be on attempting to recover from the physical, emotional, or financial disruption to your lives.

CONTACT US FOR A FREE LEGAL CONSULTATION

Call us at 412-394-6842 , or email Art at art@schwarzwalderlaw.com. If you prefer, you may click Contact Us and complete the questionnaire.

Our office handles medical malpractice cases on a contingency fee basis which means that you owe us no fees or costs unless we obtain compensation for you.