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Personal Injury: Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Erie, PA

When we are sick or injured and go to the hospital, we all share the expectation that our treatment will come from competent, trained professionals.  However, as our health care system becomes more and more strained, more people may experience malpractice by doctors and other medical personnel.  For most people, it's difficult enough to cope with serious illness or injury. When their injuries, or even their death, are caused by the malpractice of medical professionals, the distress is even more profound because a trust has been violated. The best way for victims to recover compensation after medical malpractice is to consult with experienced personal injury lawyers, like the caring professionals at the Elderkin Law Firm in Erie.  Our lawyers can help you determine the merits of your case and guide you through the legal process, from start to finish.
 

Our lawyers concentrate in helping those who have been victims of medical malpractice because of:

Medical malpractice is devastating and needs to be addressed and compensated for, but the laws can be confusing and the legal process very tiring.  Sometimes people are unaware that they are victims of malpratice or they dismiss the possibility. If you think there is any chance at all that you have been a victim of malpractice, contact us. Whether it's failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, birth injuries, hospital negligence, or wrongful death, our lawyers will make it easier for you to get the justice you deserve. 

We want to hear your case, we want to help you obtain compensation for your injuries and losses caused by the medical malpractice. Call our Erie, PA offices at 814-456-4000, send us an email at contact@elderkinlawfirm.com, or fill out one of the contact forms

 

How am I able to tell if my case involves medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice simply means that someone who you trusted to provide medical care to you did not do so in accordance with accepted medical standards. To prove that malpractice occurred, we will want to make sure of four things: (1) that your medical care provider was acting pursuant to a professional relationship with you, and could therefore be held to the professional standard of care that applies to his or her profession; (2) that the medical care provider failed to act in accordance with those profesional standards; (3) that you suffered harm; and (4) that your harm was caused by the failure of your medical care provider to act within the proper standard of care. Establishing these elements requires a review of your case by a qualified expert in the same field of practice as the medical care provider who caused your injury. If malpractice occurred, this expert review will identify the exact manner in which your medical care provider failed to act in accordance with the proper standards.

If I think there has been malpractice, what should I do first?

The first thing to do is call us so we can talk about what happened. Then we can decide what the best course of action is for you. The sooner you call us, the sooner we can get to work collecting the important information in your case. We will want to take steps to prevent the loss of evidence that may otherwise be destroyed, possibly including some parts of your medical records. Remember, there is no fee for our initial meeting, so there's no reason to delay calling us. Taking this step promptly may mean the difference between our being able to save evidence critical to your case, or losing it forever.

Is there a deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit? When is it?

Yes. Generally speaking, there is a two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. This means that you must file a lawsuit within two years of the date that the medical mistake or wrongdoing occurred. (Pennsylvania has a so-called "discovery rule" that applies in some cases to extend this two-year period, but this rule is applied only in rare cases. You should not rely upon it applying in your case.) It is important to consult an attorney as soon as you become aware of a potential claim against a doctor or other medical care provider, because there is a lot to do before the lawsuit can responsibly be filed. If you wait until the last minute to see an attorney, he or she may not be able to help you if there is not enough time to obtain a proper review and investigation of your claim.

Do you need my medical records to decide whether I have a case?

In most cases, your medical records will be an important part of telling the story of what happened to you. It is not crucial for you to have your medical records at our first meeting, however. In fact, it may be better for us to obtain copies of your medical records from your doctor or other healthcare provider, rather than having you get them directly. This is something we can talk about at our first meeting. You are always entitled to copies of your own medical records, but sometimes what you receive on a routine basis from your healthcare provider isn’t going to be the complete chart, and would not include all the information we would need to fully evaluate your case. It is best to talk to us as soon as possible about what happened, and then together decide what’s an appropriate way of investigating your claim. In most cases, we will have you sign an authorization so that we may obtain the records we need from your healthcare provider.

How do I go about obtaining my medical records and is there a fee for receiving them?
You are entitled to see your medical records and to obtain a copy. You may have to sign an authorization allowing the doctor, hospital or other healthcare provider to release those records, and you may have to pay for them. Pennsylvania law limits the amount that your medical provider may charge you for your records, and it is on a sliding scale – the more records you have, the less it costs per page. In some circumstances, you may be entitled to electronic copies of your medical records at a greatly-reduced fee (compared to paper copies). Your attorney will be able to help you get access to, or copies of, your medical records, at the lowest cost possible.
I was misdiagnosed. Is that cause for a medical malpractice case?

Maybe. While it may be a key element, a mere misdiagnosis itself does not necessarily mean that you have a valid claim for medical malpractice. A typical malpractice case requires you to prove at least four things: 1. You have to prove that the doctor owed you a duty to treat you within the standard of care that a doctor owes to his or her patient. Typically, that means proving a doctor-patient relationship. 2. You have to prove that the doctor breached that standard of care. This requires a showing that the doctor did something that a reasonable doctor wouldn’t have done, or failed to do something that a reasonable doctor would have done. 3. You must show that you were injured. 4. You must show that the doctor’s wrongdoing caused your injury. A misdiagnosis itself, even if it was the result of unreasonable conduct, is only one of those four elements. It’s just showing that the doctor didn’t do what he or she was required to do under the applicable standard of care. If that misdiagnosis didn’t actually result in any harm to you, or if you would have had the same result even if the doctor had properly diagnosed you, you are not entitled to recover money damages in a lawsuit against the doctor. Whether or not you have a valid claim is a question that requires careful study by your attorney. It is something that you should discuss with your attorney as soon as possible, because there are many considerations that determine whether you have a case. Some of those considerations may need further investigation and evaluation by your attorney before any final decision can be made.

Why is a doctor not automatically responsible for my damages when I am injured by a surgery or medical procedure?

By treating you, a doctor does not make a guarantee that you will be cured. In many medical malpractice cases, the patient is already sick or injured, and just because the patient seeks treatment, it doesn’t mean that the doctor will be able to find a cure. Someday, in a perfect world, we’d like that to be the case, but that’s not the case today. What you have to show is not that the doctor didn’t heal you, but that the doctor failed to do something that he or she was required to do by the reasonable standard of medical care.

Is it possible for me to file a malpractice suit against someone who isn’t a doctor?

Yes. A medical malpractice suit can be a claim against any licensed provider of medical services. A claim may, in some instances, be appropriate against a nurse, for example, or a physical therapist or a dentist or anyone who is professionally licensed in Pennsylvania to provide medical services to you. It may even be an institution, such as a hospital or medical clinic, rather than an individual person that is at fault. Sometimes it’s not easy, in the given circumstances, to determine exactly who is at fault. Often, especially in our complicated medical world today, you have a team that’s working on you: a doctor, a nurse, a therapist, all kinds of people whose jobs are to provide various services within the total spectrum of the healthcare that you are given. We have to look very carefully at what responsibility each medical provider was charged with and who failed to meet that responsibility, if anybody, resulting in legal liability to you.

My doctor had released my medical records to my employer; am I allowed to sue my doctor?

Confidentiality of your medical records is an important right. Certain laws, including the federal HIPAA statute, provide strict rules dictating when your doctors, healthcare providers or others are permitted to release your medical information. Typically, it may not be done without your specific and express consent. These laws provide for stiff fines and penalties if your records are released improperly. But this does not necessarily mean that you would be entitled to money damages as a result of the disclosure of your healthcare information. If your confidential medical information has been given to someone you did not authorize to receive it, you should talk to an attorney about your specific circumstances, to see if you have a claim.

Can I lose my right to pursue a medical malpractice suit because I did not follow my doctor’s instructions?
It’s possible. In certain circumstances, a patient may be considered comparatively negligent, and if so, this may reduce or eliminate the patient’s right to obtain a money judgment against the doctor or other healthcare provider. For example, if the patient failed to take medicines as directed by the doctor, or left the hospital against medical advice, this conduct may have a negative impact on the patient’s right to receive compensation, even if the doctor was negligent in the treatment provided before discharge from the hospital. It is important in each case to give your attorney a full account of what you did in response to your doctor’s instructions, so that a full and fair evaluation of your potential claim can be made. Failing to follow your doctor’s advice may not prevent your claim, but it is a factor that your attorney will need to take into account in order to properly evaluate your rights.
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