What Is Medical Malpractice?

How do you know if you have a valid medical malpractice case? The best thing to do is to talk to a personal injury lawyer who can review the aspects of your situation in detail. This video is a candid conversation between two experienced medical malpractice attorneys, during which they discuss their general overview of medical malpractice, what constitutes a potential winnable case, and how a personal injury lawyer will decide which medical malpractice cases to take on. They also talk about the misconception and myth that lawyers just blatantly suit is these situations – there is a substantial outlay of expenses to create a solid case, including the need to often hire expert doctors in the exact medical field of the malpractice.

Our Video Contains Medical Malpractice Cases, Statistics & Stories

If the personal injury case is well defined with documentation, there is often a settlement before going to court. Once it goes to trial, however, most cases are ruled in favor of the doctors and hospitals.

Below is a transcription of the video. We hope that the conversation between Stephen Karp and Peter Hart gives you a clear understanding of how a personal injury will view your medical malpractice situation. As always, for additional consultation, direct contact with Karp & Hart is always encouraged.

Medical Malpractice Conversation Video Transcript:


PETER HART: Good morning Steve, how are you today?
STEPHEN KARP: Pretty good Pete!
PETER HART: Alright! Today’s topic, I’d like to ask you some questions on medical malpractice a big area of the law that we practice, something that we deal with every day for thirty or more years. People who are injured when they have surgery done, they had a bad result, they don’t get better, and they call and say well I want to sue my doctor or my hospital. Now how do we do that?
STEPHEN KARP: Well, there’s a difference between a medical complication and medical malpractice. There are some surgeries done by the best doctors and in the best way, and you’re still gonna get a bad result, a complication – it’s no one’s fault. But then there’s medical malpractice. The legal definition is failure to follow accepted standards of medical care, where the doctor deviated from what is accepted by other doctors. The real definition is – it’s really gotta be a medical screw-up to win a case –
PETER HART: Big time…
STEPHEN KARP: It can’t just be a little bit – it’s gotta be ‘big time’. That’s how it is in Pennsylvania these days!
PETER HART: How hard is it to win a case?
STEPHEN KARP: Well, the new statistics came out, it was very interesting – in Pennsylvania – not counting Philadelphia – if you take state-wide except for Philadelphia county, the cases that went to trial, over ninety percent of them were won by doctors, lost by plaintiffs.
STEPHEN KARP: That is a huge result, and that just shows you how hard it is…
PETER HART: Why would we even bother to take a case?
STEPHEN KARP: Because good cases settle. Those cases i told you before – where it’s clear – where anyone would come in and say yes, they made a mistake. Where they gave you prescriptions and it was for the wrong person, or the wrong amount, or your had something written down – the case is settled. But the cases that go to court, you have more of the difficult time. It’s very expensive. if you handle an automobile accident case,  you have dispositions, and you have the doctor’s reports and all that, but a medical malpractice case, you need experts to prove it. Nothing is obvious; you need an expert the same specialty as the doctor you’re going after.
PETER HART: So if it’s a botched operation, an orthopedic operation…
STEPHEN KARP: I need an orthopedic doctor – and it’s hard to get experts, iit is hard to get doctors to testify against other doctors, and these doctors are very expensive. So number one, you’ve gotta get the expert – which is difficult- – and then you have to pay for it! And in the typical malpractice case – nothing’s typical – but if you asked for an average, you’re spending anywhere from forty to a hundred thousand dollars in expenses to bring a case to trial.
PETER HART: So when you’re saying, “You are spending…” – who’s the ‘you’ you’re talking about?
STEPHEN KARP: The ‘you’ is the attorney! And if we lose, and anybody handling malpractice cases over the years has lost, not only don’t get paid…
PETER HART: So all the hours that are put in to the case, hundreds and hundreds of hours preparing it, getting ready and going to trial, plus the attorney – our firm, for example puts money up front – fifty to a hundred thousand dollars – if it’s a zero verdict, we don’t get that money back…
STEPHEN KARP: …and that’s why selection is so important, and that’s why the myth that you hear all the time that these lawyers are just suing any doctor who gets a bad result, it’s a myth, it’s not true, because if you did, you’d run out of money very quickly. The other problem is at trial, jurors like their doctors…
STEPHEN KARP:…and ninety eight percent of all doctors do a wonderful job, but like any profession, there are bad people in it – there are bad lawyers, there are bad plumbers, there are bad doctors.
PETER HART: And it could be good doctors that make bad mistakes.
STEPHEN KARP: Yes, but most of the time over the years, you’ll find it’s really the bad doctors that keep on doing it. The tough part is to get the jury to put down their core belief are great – and they are – but that this doctor in this particular case made a horrible mistake.
PETER HART: Give us an example of one of your more interesting or most interesting case
STEPHEN KARP: Didn’t think you’d ask, Pete, so I’ve just brought something here which I’ve shown groups and people. And this is a case , probably about twenty years ago, but it’s my most interesting, because it’s the most unbelievable. This was left in a client after surgery. Now, when I say this, the exact same towel – it wasn’t this towel, but it was the exact same size – and that was left inside one of my client’s stomachs. And it was all bunched up, and of course it was wet and put in there. And this was used to put on the table, most of the time doctors put it on the table to put instruments on, in this case the doctor wanted to use it as a sponge, and the nurses didn’t count it, ’cause they count the instruments and the sponges – they didn’t count it because they thought it was just for the instruments on the table.
PETER HART: Steve, we have the principle the law as you and I practice – it’s no harm no foul. You know, if somebody’s injured due to the carelessness of the doctor is there technically as case – yes – but the question is, was there really an injury. Was there an injury in this case?
STEPHEN KARP: In this case there certainly was, because for a month after surgery he wasn’t feeling real good as you can imagine, and then they had to open him up again. So there was. But you’re right, in a lot of cases and I’ll give you a very quick example, and it happens in cancer cases where somebody comes in and they have a lump and the doctor says, no, it’s fine, it’s just a cyst forget about”, and then they go in another month to another doctor who discovers it. Nothing happened in that month…
PETER HART: And the malpractice is the failure of the first doctor who to diagnosis it…
STEPHEN KARP: If you take that same case and it was a year, and it led to a different stage of cancer – then you could have a case.
PETER HART: So, you have the difference between a month and a year, and I assume the growth rate of the cancer, how fast is spreads…
STEPHEN KARP: It’s all, and that gets back to point number one with the experts. And you need oncology experts, hematology experts, to show that the malpractice caused the harm.
PETER HART: How many cases do you accept compared to the number of calls or people that you have talked to about med mal?
STEPHEN KARP: For every fifty, seventy five, a hundred calls – we have a case.
PETER HART: Fifteen to twenty minutes with each person that we talk to!
STEPHEN KARP: You’re exactly right, and when they call after they speak to us if there isn’t a case, I think they are at least relieved because they know there wasn’t – it was just something that happened, they don’t carry that anger around with them, and hopefully we do a service to them.
PETER HART: And that happens all the time in a lot of our calls, where you can’t help them but at least make them feel less anxious about the whole thing.

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