When a person is injured, there are many circumstances in which medical treatment may include the services of a physical therapist assistant. Often, the treatment that is provided is done under the oversight of a treating physician. When there is an additional injury or worsening harm that results from the treatment that was provided, it may be complicated to determine if there was medical malpractice and if that malpractice was on the part of the treating physician or the physical therapist. Despite the complexity of determining who was responsible for the harm, it may be possible to bring suit against the physical therapist, either alone or in an action where the doctor also is a defendant.
Medical malpractice cases arise when a healthcare provider acts in a negligent or reckless manner, leading to measurable harm. Although the laws may vary from state to state, physical therapists typically fall within the classification of healthcare providers or medical professionals against whom a medical malpractice case may be brought.
In order to prevail in this type of case, it is necessary to prove the following:
- The physical therapist assistant owed a duty of care to the person who was injured – this means that there must have been an established relationship where the therapist was providing professional services to the patient;
- The physical therapist breached that duty by failing to adhere to the applicable standard of care – this varies based on the type of services being provided, the education, training, and skill of the therapist, and the circumstances under which the care was provided. A medical expert is necessary to establish the standard and testify about how the therapist’s actions deviated from the expected care;
- The negligence was the direct and proximate cause of the harm that was suffered – this may be a challenge if the patient was seeing the therapist for a pre-existing condition; and
- The harm was measurable – it does not matter if the mistake was terrible and clear if there was not associated harm that could be attributed to the error.
In order to succeed in this type of case, it is critical to have an expert who can testify about how the actions of the physical therapist were negligent. In most states, the expert will have to be a qualified physical therapist who still regularly practices in the field. Many jurisdictions do not allow the testimony of professional witnesses to establish the relevant standard and the deviation. The standard basically is what a reasonable and prudent physical therapist with the same education, training, and skills would have done under the same circumstances. Once the expert has established the standard and how the actions of the physical therapist failed to conform to the standard, then it is necessary to show how the plaintiff was harmed.
Although damages are going to depend on the specific facts of the case, the following are fairly common:
- Medical expenses – With a serious injury, there often are many unreimbursed expenses, including projections for years of treatment and therapy that were necessitated by the negligently-caused harm;
- Lost wages – Many people are not able to go back to work in the same capacity as before the injury, if they can return to a job at all. It is crucial to consider future losses, including associated benefits, in order to accurately reflect the level of harm;
- Costs for accommodations to the home or personal vehicle – After a severe injury, a person may require a wheelchair or walker, or other aids, which may make it difficult to function in a house or operate a vehicle without special accommodations;
- Miscellaneous expenses – This may include the cost of services that the plaintiff could have done for himself or herself before the injury, as well as other expenses that were directly attributable to the harm caused by the negligence; and
- Pain and suffering
It is important to consult with a skilled medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible because physical therapist negligence actions often are complicated by the involvement of a treating physician who may have misdiagnosed a patient or prescribed the wrong treatment. Even when this has happened, in many cases, the physical therapist should have realized that the treatment was causing harm and stopped it before it led to severe, long-term injury.
Stern Law, PLLC Advocates for Those Injured Due to Negligence
There are many different types of medical negligence, but when it happens, the consequences can be devastating and permanent. It is critical to get compensation necessary for treatment, expenses, and pain and suffering before the time limits preclude any further actions. The knowledgeable and compassionate attorney at Stern Law, PLLC have spent more than 30 years fighting to achieve the right results for our clients. Stern Law, PLLC also offers resources to those who may have been the victims of medical malpractice, with dedicated and informed staff members available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, to answer questions, even if you are not a client. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.