What You May Expect – If You Have Been Diagnosed with Cancer, There May Be Medical Malpractice Implications
If the signs of cancer were present earlier, and if your physician failed to act upon those signs, you may have a claim for medical malpractice failure to diagnose lawsuit.
For instance, if you tell your doctor that you have noticed blood in your urine, your physician should, under most circumstances, take steps be certain that the blood is not being caused by a tumor in your bladder. Similarly, blood in your stool could be a sign of colon cancer that should be explored. Of course, the fact that you have noticed blood does not mean that you have cancer, but it can be a sign. Similarly, if you tell your doctor about a lump in your breast, it should prompt a work up.
An attorney experienced in medical malpractice will be able to tell you whether there is a basis for you to seek damages in a civil suit.
First, the attorney will need to obtain copies of your medical records. You will be asked to sign an authorization giving your doctors permission to release your records. Your attorney can examine the records and determine whether there is anything that warrants further review by a physician. If the physician retained by your lawyer concludes that there is a reasonable basis to go forward with a lawsuit, he or she will provide your attorney with a written statement confirming that opinion. This written statement is mandatory under Pennsylvania law. When your attorney files the formal Complaint, he or she will be required to certify to the court that a licensed professional has provided that written statement.
The Complaint is the document that sets forth the basis for your claim.
It will name the people you have sued (the defendants), and recite the important factual events in numbered paragraphs. After they have been served with the Complaint, the defendants will respond, paragraph by paragraph, to its allegations.
After the Complaint has been answered, the parties will begin the process of “discovery.”
This usually begins with the exchange of written questions (“interrogatories”) and document requests. Your attorney will serve written interrogatories on the defendants, and they will serve you with similar requests. Next, your attorney will have an opportunity to question the defendant (a “deposition”). This is done in the presence of all attorneys, with the defendant placed under oath, and is recorded, word-for-word by a stenographer. You will similarly be questioned by the defense attorneys when they take your deposition.
After the discovery is completed, the attorneys will exchange reports by expert witnesses. Under Pennsylvania law, you must (in all but the most extreme cases) have at least one expert witness who will testify on your behalf at trial. Your expert cannot testify unless he or she has submitted a report or similar summary of the opinions he or she will offer at any trial. If your lawyer does not produce such a report, the defendant will ask the Court to dismiss your case (a “Motion for Summary Judgment”).
In a “failure to diagnose cancer” case, your expert should be prepared to state that the doctor-defendant failed to comply with the standard of care.
Your expert will also be required to opine that the failure to comply with the standard of care led to a delay in the diagnosis of cancer, and that the delay resulted in a progression of your cancer, an adverse effect on your prognosis, or the need for interventions that would not have otherwise been necessary.
As your case approaches its trial date, the Court will ask the lawyers if there is any chance of settlement. If settlement negotiations are worthwhile, the Court may conduct a settlement conference in an attempt to bring the parties to an agreement. You should note that medical malpractice cases are vigorously defended, and often do not settle. For this reason, you should be sure that your attorney is prepared to try your case if necessary.
Insurance companies will not even discuss settlement unless they are convinced that your lawyer is capable of delivering a verdict in your favor.
If the parties can agree upon a settlement amount, you will be asked to sign a release, a written document that memorializes the terms of the settlement. If the case is not settled, and is tried to a verdict, the jury will decide whether (and in what amount) you are entitled to recover.
Unlike a settlement, the jury’s verdict is not final. The parties are given an opportunity to appeal the result if they can identify errors in the way the trial was conducted. The appeal process can take months to years.
Depending upon the venue in which your case has been filed, this process can take as little as two years. Philadelphia’s courts keep these cases on a strict timetable. Other counties have backlogs that can add years to the process. In any event, you will need patience.
Paul Lauricella and Slade McLaughlin have decades of experience with medical malpractice cases. They have each tried numerous cases, and have each secured numerous verdicts on behalf of their clients. They have an understanding of medicine that comes with so many years of experience. Contact either Slade McLaughlin or Paul Lauricella if you have any questions about the medical care you have received.
Paul Lauricella – Trial Attorney
McLaughlin & Lauricella – Philadelphia PA
Contact Paul Lauricella, Esq.