Doctors, hospitals, and medical professions have a duty and legal obligation to provide quality diagnosis treatment and care to patients. However, when things go seriously wrong due to medical negligence or carelessness on the part of a physician, nurse, hospital or healthcare professional, a family that has lost a loved one to such negligence may have the basis to file a medical malpractice claim. Wrongful death cases involving medical malpractice are often complex, challenging and time-consuming.
It is critical to have solid evidence to back up the claim, which may include medical reports, doctors’ evaluations, and other documentation, which must be obtained and compiled. In addition, there are also issues with statutes of limitations. In Pennsylvania, the time limit to file a wrongful death lawsuit is two years. So, it is important that you act quickly and contact an experienced Pennsylvania wrongful death lawyer who will fight hard to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family.
Deaths Involving Medical Negligence
The number of wrongful deaths that occur in Pennsylvania and in the United States as a result of medical negligence is staggering. According to recent research done by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, medical errors are the leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease and cancer, causing at least 250,000 deaths each year. Experts say people don’t just die from heart attacks and bacterial infections, but they die from systemic failings and care that is poorly coordinated.
The magnitude of the death toll, about 10 percent of U.S. deaths annually, is striking in an era where efforts are being made to reform the health care system to ensure safe, high-quality, high-value medical care. However, patient safety efforts have seemingly failed to gain much traction. And researchers say this is because there has been no systematic effort to study medical errors or to put effective safeguards in place.
Common Mistakes That Lead to Death
There are a number of common medical errors that could lead to a patient’s death. Some of the most common mistakes that occur in a hospital or medical setting are as follows:
- Surgical errors: There is a lot that can go wrong during surgery. Even the most commonplace procedures could go awry. Some of the common examples of surgical errors that our Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys commonly come across include anesthesia errors, accidental damage to surrounding tissue, nerves or muscles, avoidable infections, operating at the wrong site, leaving instruments or objects in the patient’s body and surgical fires.
- Failure to diagnose: When a doctor or healthcare professional fails to properly diagnose a disease or medical condition, the consequences can be devastating. When a proper diagnosis is not made, the patient may not receive the treatment he or she needs. In cases where misdiagnosis occurs, the patient may receive the wrong type of treatment, causing his or her condition to worsen. In cases where a doctor fails to diagnose heart disease or cancer, the patient could end up dying because he or she did not receive the right type of treatment in a timely manner.
- Technician errors: When test results are misread or misinterpreted, this could lead to misdiagnosis of a disease or medical condition. For example, when a mammogram technician fails to do the job correctly or if he or she mixes up patient charts or images, it could result in a serious, potentially fatal, misdiagnosis.
- Wrong medication: When a patient is prescribed the wrong medication, the incorrect dosage or a medication that could have serious interactions with other prescription drugs the patient is taking, the consequences could be lethal as well.
- Birth complications: Mistakes that are made by doctors, nurses or other hospital staff could result in catastrophic birth injuries that could leave the child disabled for life. Birth injuries can also lead to death. Negligence during labor and delivery could also cause serious health complications for the mother, which could result in death.
Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases
Under Pennsylvania’s survival statutes, the deceased patient’s survivors or estate can recover damages that occurred during the time period from the initial medical malpractice to the death of the patient. These damages, in general, include everything that is allowed in a medical malpractice lawsuit had the patient survived, except for damages that relate to the future such as lost earning capacity. Under the law, survivors may also seek to recover expenses such as funeral costs.
Pennsylvania’s wrongful death statutes help compensate the patient’s family for their future monetary loss. The calculation considers factors such as the patient’s job and savings. Family members may also be able to seek compensation for damages such as lost future income, loss of benefits and loss of inheritance.
There are a number of parties that can seek damages in a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit. As with any wrongful death case, the spouse and children of a decedent can file the lawsuit. If the decedent was a child, the parents could file the lawsuit. If the wrongful death victim was an adult but had no children or spouse, the parents could file the lawsuit as the survivors. In some cases, siblings or anyone who was financially dependent on the victim could also seek compensation.
What Are The Steps You Can Take?
If you have lost a loved one in Pennsylvania as the result of medical negligence, there are a number of steps you can take in order to protect your legal rights. First, it is important that you obtain copies of all your medical and hospital records. Do not allow other parties access to your records or private healthcare information. Save all receipts and bills that show what type of expenses your loved one incurred during his or her time in the hospital. Obtain a list of medications (including the dosage) that your loved one was taking.
Contact an experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney who has handled wrongful death cases. A knowledgeable and resourceful lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation into the case, have access to medical experts who can testify, and fight for your rights every step of the way. Call experienced Pennsylvania wrongful death attorneys at KaplunMarx PLLC to schedule a no-cost consultation and comprehensive case evaluation.