Negligence — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Medical negligence is unfortunately common in the healthcare context. Whether a given healthcare professional is poorly trained, exhausted, or simply not paying close enough attention to the task at hand, they could act in a way that violates the standard of care and causes injury to the patient, thus exposing the healthcare professional to medical malpractice liability.

Richards & Richards, LLP is a medical malpractice firm that has represented victims of negligent medical conduct for almost 50 years. We understand that medical malpractice lawsuits can be challenging and, for clients who are unfamiliar with the demands of litigation, sometimes overwhelming. We work closely with our clients throughout the process to keep them apprised of new developments in their case.

Do you have a potential medical malpractice claim? Call (412) 261-2620 to schedule a free consultation with one of our Pittsburgh medical negligence attorneys today. Our track record speaks for itself. Over the years, we have secured over $75 million in medical malpractice awards and settlements.


Q: Who can be held liable for negligence in the medical malpractice context? Is it just the doctor?

A: You can hold anyone who provides healthcare services liable, not just doctors. In fact, in some cases, it may be easier to hold a non-physician healthcare professional liable – depending on the standard of care in the circumstances. Assuming that the doctor has violated the acceptable standard of care in the circumstances, and in doing so caused you injuries, you can bring a medical malpractice claim against nurses, physical therapists, specialists (i.e., radiologists, anesthesiologists, etc.), and various other healthcare professionals.


Q: My doctor ordered treatment that had a higher risk of serious side effects than an alternative treatment. Does that qualify as negligence?

A: This is an interesting quandary. The fact that your doctor has ordered a higher-risk treatment is not per se negligence. You will have to show that the risk was so high that ordering such treatment constituted a violation of the standard of care. This may be somewhat challenging, depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, if the low-risk treatment is also not that effective in treating the condition, then the high-risk treatment may be reasonable – especially if the condition is severe.


Q: How does my consent affect my potential medical malpractice claim?

A: Consent can undermine your medical malpractice claim in certain situations. For example, if you are aware of the risks of a particular procedure, and you are injured in a manner that aligns with the risks you were warned about, then your medical malpractice claim against the doctor may be undermined significantly. Of course, you may still be able to hold the treating healthcare professional liable for medical malpractice if they misrepresented the risks in some way to secure your consent, or if they were ignorant of safer alternatives.


Q: If a healthcare professional was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, can I hold them liable for medical negligence?

A: Intoxication is almost certainly a violation of the standard of care, and mistakes made while treating a patient while under the influence of drugs or alcohol may constitute medical negligence. Crucially, however, you can only recover damages if the conduct of the healthcare professional actually caused you injuries. For example, suppose that the nurse was intoxicated while administering medicine to you in the hospital. Perhaps the nurse made a few mistakes by delaying too long in administering the medicine. Though the nurse may have violated the standard of care by administering medicine while intoxicated, you cannot recover unless their negligence actually caused you injuries.


Q: Is the hospital responsible for my injuries, too?

A: Yes — under Pennsylvania law, a hospital can be held vicariously liable for the negligence of their employees.