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According to a study published by Johns Hopkins University, which analyzed medical death rate data over an eight-year period, safety experts calculated that more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical errors, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States.
While Massachusetts is fortunate to have some of the finest hospitals and medical care providers in the country, mistakes still happen, and when they do, they can have catastrophic consequences for patients and their families.
To successfully pursue a medical malpractice case in Massachusetts, certain essential criteria must first be satisfied. First, a medical expert retained by the plaintiff (the party bringing the case) must provide a written opinion that (1) a deviation from the accepted “standard of care” has occurred; (2) the deviation from the standard of care resulted in serious injury or death; and (3) the resulting injury or death – in the opinion of the medical expert – was most likely (>50% probability) caused by the physician’s deviation from the established standard of care. When, and only when a qualified medical expert can proffer such opinions is the case a viable candidate for medical malpractice litigation.
Massachusetts General Laws chapter 231 section 60L sets forth the steps that a plaintiff must follow before a lawsuit may be properly filed in court. First, the plaintiff, typically by and through his/her legal counsel, must send a letter to each of the medical providers against whom a claim is contemplated, advising them of the allegations of medical malpractice being asserted against them. The medical providers are then required to provide a written response to the “60L Notice Letter” setting forth their defense(s) to the allegations asserted by the plaintiff. Once this procedural requirement is satisfied, the litigation can formally begin.
After the lawsuit is filed in the appropriate court, the plaintiff must then file a document or “pleading” referred to as the “Plaintiff’s Offer of Proof,”. The Offer of Proof is basically a written presentation of the case, containing the opinions of the plaintiff’s medical expert(s), outlining the evidence of negligence on the part of each named defendant. Counsel for the defendant(s) then decides whether to challenge the plaintiff’s Offer of Proof or allow it to stand unchallenged. If challenged, the court then schedules a Medical Malpractice Tribunal hearing, composed of a judge, a lawyer, and a medical practitioner (usually a physician or nurse) to review the Offer of Proof. At the hearing, the Tribunal members review the evidence contained in the plaintiff’s Offer of Proof and are free to question counsel for both sides on any issues about which they wish to inquire. The Tribunal must then decide (by vote) whether the plaintiff’s Offer of Proof raises a legitimate question of liability for a court (or jury) to decide, or whether the plaintiff’s claim concerns merely an unfortunate medical result. If a legitimate question of liability is found, the case proceeds toward trial. If, on the other hand, the Tribunal is not convinced that a legitimate question of liability is supported by the evidence presented to the Tribunal, the plaintiff may still proceed to trial, but will first be required to post a “bond” with the court, in the amount of $6,000, to help defray the legal defense costs incurred by the medical defendants if the jury finds in favor of the defendants.
What Are The Different Forms of Medical Malpractice?
Failure to Diagnose and Timely Treat: This category of medical malpractice claims is among the most common and often results in a delay in treatment leading to medical complications or death. Typical examples include the failure to diagnose treatable cancer; the failure to investigate and treat symptoms suggestive of active heart disease or stroke, as well as the failure to diagnose and treat other diseases and conditions which typically respond well to timely treatment.
Errors during Surgery: Whether the case involved an anesthetic error, inadvertent damage to a body part, or a preventable complication during surgery, such errors can leave a patient with serious medical problems, and, in extreme cases, result in death.
Birth Injuries: Doctors or Nurses may make critical mistakes during the labor and delivery process. Such errors can result in permanent brain injury, nerve damage, or fractured bones.
Medication Errors: Errors in the choice and dosage of proscribed medication is another common cause of injury or death and can occur in both hospital and office settings, as well as by pharmacies and by others charged with prescribing and preparing medications.
Massachusetts Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
In Massachusetts, the deadline (“statute of limitations”) within which a lawsuit must be filed once a medical error is suspected, is usually three (3) years from the date the alleged malpractice occurred or could reasonably have been determined. The limitation period may be enlarged if a patient could not reasonably have known about the alleged malpractice until a later date (often referred to as the “discovery rule”), but in no case may a medical malpractice case must be brought more than seven (7) years after the negligence occurred, whether the error was discoverable or not. If the claim involves a minor under the age of six, they have until age nine to file a claim or their right to pursue compensation may be forever lost. This seven (7) year absolute deadline (also referred to as the “statute of repose”) does not pertain to leaving a foreign object left in a body during surgery.
When selecting an attorney to handle your medical malpractice case, choose a law firm with a proven record of success. Parker Scheer LLP never charges a fee for an initial consultation, and all cases are handled on a “contingent fee basis”, meaning there is no legal fee charged unless and until we recover compensation for your injuries and losses.
If you or a family member have suffered a serious injury or death as a result of medical malpractice, contact one of our Boston medical malpractice lawyers to obtain a free confidential consultation.
Common Medical Malpractice Questions
What Do Medical Malpractice Lawyers Do For Victims Of Neglect?
What is a medical malpractice lawyer and what exactly does one do? Being represented by an experienced attorney is important in all personal injury cases, but especially those involving medical malpractice. These cases are incredibly complex and often require attorneys to hire expert witnesses and conduct thorough investigations in order to prove liability.
You will need an attorney who has a deep understanding of complex medical issues to represent you if you want to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. If you don’t have an attorney, it will be a challenge to get the evidence that you need to prove the defendant’s liability.
What Do Medical Malpractice Attorneys Charge For Their Legal Services?
One of the first questions that clients often ask is, “How much do medical malpractice lawyers in MA charge?” Many people assume that the cost of a lawyer is based on the amount of time that they spend on your case, but that’s not necessarily true.
Personal injury attorneys do not typically charge clients hourly or flat fees. Instead, they work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they won’t get paid unless they help you recover compensation for your injuries.
Failure to Diagnose Cancer
The delayed diagnosis of cancer is much more common than you may think. In fact, over 12% of all cancer cases are misdiagnosed at first. This can lead to a serious delay in the correct diagnosis, making cancer which may have been treatable much more difficult to treat or untreatable altogether. Because of this, cancer can result in complications, disfigurement, or the death of the patient that could have been avoided.
As with any medical malpractice claim, a case of misdiagnosis of cancer requires experienced personal injury attorneys who can get you the best possible results. The medical malpractice lawyers at Parker Scheer LLP have years of experience in medical malpractice cases and can get you the results you deserved.
Cases involving the delayed diagnosis of cancer are often complicated. Doctors who failed to diagnosis will claim that an earlier diagnosis would not have helped the patient, or that they were not negligent in making their diagnosis. The experienced Boston medical malpractice lawyers at Parker Scheer LLP can handle this for you, as well as the complex parts of your case.
Cases of a Delayed Diagnosis of Cancer
A misdiagnosis of cancer can come from a number of different negligence actions from a medical professional. The failure to perform a needed diagnostic test, incorrect interpretation of test results, failure to recognize a tumor, incorrect performance of a procedure, technology malfunctions, lost lab results, misread x-rays and failure to refer the patient to a specialist can all lead to a delayed diagnosis.
Who is Liable?
In most cases, the claim is brought against the medical professional who was negligent and therefore delayed the diagnosis. The professional can be a general practitioner who failed to perform the diagnostic test or refer a patient, a radiologist who did not correctly interpret the patient’s x-rays or the surgeon who failed to remove the tumor correctly. There have also been cases where technology malfunctions and that technology’s manufacturer has been found liable.
What should you do if you are affected by the Misdiagnosis of Cancer?
If you have been affected by the delayed diagnosis of cancer, there are several steps that you should take:
Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer to discuss your case. An experienced attorney will be able to guide you throughout the process, and it is important to begin the process as quickly as possible in order to preserve as much testimony and evidence as possible.
Work with your lawyer. Gathering all medical records related to your case is imperative.
Keep track of all records relating to your case, including doctor appointments, events, and medical bills. In addition, make sure you have copies of all test results and receipts.
Over 1.3 million Americans are injured each year because of prescription errors. If you or a loved one have been injured due to a medication error, the lawyers at Parker Scheer LLP. Our medical malpractice lawyers have years of experience handling personal injury cases that result in serious injury or death.
Causes of Prescription Error
Errors involving medications can result from a wide range of scenarios, including the following:
Incorrect medicine being prescribed or given to the patient
Incorrect dosage- either too large or too small- being prescribed or given to the patient
Failure by a medical professional to give the patient medication on time, or complete failure to give the patient their medication
Failure by a medical professional to check patient history for allergies, potential drug interactions or lab results before administering medication
Incorrect translation of a doctor’s handwriting by either the nurse or pharmacist
Incorrect reading of a dosage by a pharmacist, leading to drug overdose
Confusion of two similarly named drugs by a medical professional
Incorrect labeling of prescription drugs
Reckless prescription of a drug for a patient with past issues with substance abuse
According to the national coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, a prescription error is a preventable event which causes or leads to the inappropriate use of medication or harm to the patient during the time in which the medication is controlled by the medical professional, patient or consumer. The doctor, pharmacist, or a nurse who administers the medication to the patient can make a prescription error. In severe cases, a medication error can lead to the death of the patient.
The Elderly are the Most At Risk
The risk of falling prey to a medication error is present for anyone who takes prescription medication. According to a recent study by the FDA, nearly half of all medication errors that led to the death of the patient affect those over age 60. The elderly are generally thought to be the most at risk due to the higher number of prescriptions they have.
Steps to take to Prevent Prescription Errors
Preventing all medication errors is impossible. However, there are some steps you can take to decrease the risk. Talk to your doctors about all prescribed medications, and make sure all doctors you see have your complete medical history. In addition, when picking up prescriptions from your pharmacist be sure to double check all of the labels and that you are getting the medication in the proper dose. If something doesn’t seem right to you, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Schedule A Consultation With One of the Top Medical Malpractice Law Firms in Boston, MA
If you have suffered an injury due to a doctor’s negligence, please contact our Boston medical malpractice lawyers for a free consultation and receive a response within hours after filling out this form. You can also call our office at (617) 886-0500.