What to Do if Your Doctor Commits Malpractice

Do not threaten, or even indicate, to the doctor that you may file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Threats will not solve your problem, but may, in fact, make things worse. So instead of threatening your doctor, we suggest you take the following steps:

1. Order all your medical records pertaining to the malpractice.

You have a right to access your medical records. Even thought the records belong to you, the doctor’s office may charge you a fee before turning the records over to you. If it is more than a nominal fee (greater than $10), please contact our office to obtain such records on your behalf. You do not have to provide a reason for needing your records, but if it makes you feel more comfortable, you can say that you need the records for an appointment with a different doctor.

2. Get a second opinion.

Unless the malpractice is blatantly obvious, such as where a surgeon operates on the wrong body part, get a second medical opinion from a different doctor. Generally, it is best if the second doctor practices in the same specialty as the first doctor. (An exception might be a case where the specialty of the first doctor was not the correct one to treat your problem).

One purpose for obtaining a second opinion is to determine whether medical malpractice occurred. Not every bad outcome is medical malpractice. There are times when a bad result is just a bad result. Medical malpractice can arise in many different ways and in many different settings. But it’s important to keep in mind that not every situation in which something goes wrong — or in which your health condition worsens — rises to the level of a viable medical malpractice case.

I also would not tell the second doctor that you believe your first doctor committed malpractice. Many doctors do not like to treat a patient who may sue their prior doctor. It’s better to just describe the problem, the prior treatment, and ask for a second opinion. If, after the second doctor tells you what he thinks, you are still unsure if there was a mistake, you can ask the second doctor if he or she would have done anything differently. Or you can ask if he or she agreed with the treatment plan of the first doctor.

In many cases, such questions will elicit a response from the second doctor to the effect that the first doctor made a mistake. If so, also ask the second doctor if the first doctor’s mistake caused whatever problems you are experiencing.

Note that, if the second doctor does not say that the first doctor messed up, that does necessarily mean that medical malpractice did not occur. Again, some doctors are just reluctant to criticize their colleagues.

3. See a medical malpractice lawyer immediately.

Consult with an experienced lawyer who handles medical malpractice cases. (Even if you have not yet taken the above steps). There are statute of limitations (or a time limit in which you can file a lawsuit) for medical malpractice cases. This limit varies from state to state, in Pennsylvania and New Jersey it is two years. To ensure you file a claim before the statute of limitations expires, you should reach out to a medical malpractice attorney as soon after you realize doctor error occurred. If you believe that you were a victim of medical malpractice, The Thistle Law Firm is experienced in these claims and can help you understand your legal options and answer your questions at 215-568-6800.

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