How to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
If you have been injured due to negligence by a healthcare provider, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. But how do you start? Although any private citizen can file a lawsuit without legal representation, a claim of medical malpractice is complex and requires a substantial body of evidence. Your first step should be to schedule a consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can explain the requirements and guide you through the process.
Essentially, you need to be able to prove four elements:
- Duty — The defendant had a duty of care.
- Breach — The defendant violated that duty of care by offering substandard service.
- Causation — Due to the substandard service, you suffered an injury.
- Damages — You must be able to show the full extent of your injuries.
So, first you must have proof that the people you are accusing (a medical doctor, a surgeon, surgical nurses, a hospital, etc.) had a professional relationship with you and provided medical care.
Then you have to identify a mistake someone made. Once you have identified the mistake, you must gather evidence that supports the assertion that a competent healthcare provider of reasonable skill would not have made the same mistake. This requires consultations with other providers in the same field of medicine who can examine your records and firmly state that you received care that fell below the accepted medical standard.
Next, you must draw a causal connection between the mistake and your negative outcome. For example, if a surgeon perforates a patient’s bowel and the patient develops sepsis, a deadly blood infection, it’s easy to say the mistake caused the harm. But if a physician fails to diagnose heart disease, but the patient dies from lung cancer, it is difficult to say that “but for” the failure to find the heart disease, the patient would have survived the cancer. Again, you must consult qualified medical experts who can testify credibly about causation.
As for your damages, you must gather as much evidence as possible about the extent of your losses. These include economic losses, such as your medical bills (current and future) and any lost income you suffered or will suffer in the future, as well as noneconomic losses, such as your pain and suffering, the loss of your enjoyment of life, and the loss of your quality of life. You must consult qualified medical experts who can explain your condition and your prognosis for recovery. But testimony from friends and family about your life before and after the malpractice incident is also important for verifying your noneconomic losses. You must come up with a dollar figure you are asking the court to impose upon the defendant who harmed you.
Finally, you must make sure to attach as defendants anyone who may have played a role in the fateful mistake that caused your injuries. For example, if a surgical resident caused your injuries, the hospital may bear some responsibility for poor training and oversight.
All of the information you have gathered goes into a document called the Complaint, which you file in the court of proper jurisdiction. This is usually the state court of the county in which the malpractice incident took place.
Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is a large undertaking. Potential plaintiffs should understand they only get one chance to sue, so they need to make it count. That’s why you should only trust your lawsuit to an experienced malpractice attorney with a track record of success.
If you have been harmed by medical malpractice in western Pennsylvania, Rudberg Law Offices, LLC can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 412-488-6000 or contact our Pittsburgh office online to schedule a free consultation.