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Can Medical Malpractice Claims Be Filed Against Physical Therapists?

January 5, 2024

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Medical malpractice, usually characterized by a deviation from accepted medical standards resulting in the death or injury of a patient, isn’t exclusive to doctors. Other healthcare providers, such as physiotherapists, can also face malpractice lawsuits. But proving liability and recovering your deserved compensation if you believe you’re a victim of medical malpractice is not always straightforward.

When your well-being or life is at stake because of a healthcare worker’s negligence, all is not lost. Get help from experienced medical malpractice lawyers. They will give you an honest opinion of your case and propose solutions as you and your family go through this trying time.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice is a legal term defining situations where a healthcare provider fails to deliver the expected level of care to a patient, resulting in injury or even death.

This extends across all branches of medicine, including physical therapy. Proving medical malpractice involves demonstrating that the provider breached their duty of care, directly caused a patient’s injury, and led to the patient incurring physical, mental, or financial damages.

How a Physical Therapist's Actions Could Be Considered Medical Malpractice

Physical therapists are responsible for providing safe and efficient care. Their duties range from assessing a patient's condition, medical history, and recovery goals to formulating suitable treatment plans, monitoring progress, and ensuring communication with patients and other healthcare providers. However, situations may arise where they fail to meet these responsibilities.

Some instances of negligence by physical therapists might include:

  • Lack of informed consent before commencing or altering treatment
  • Inadequate evaluation or diagnosis of a patient's condition
  • Omitting referrals to specialists when necessary
  • Administering inappropriate or excessive treatment leading to harm or worsening conditions
  • Using defective or unhygienic equipment
  • Inadequate supervision or training of assistants or staff
  • Failure in documentation or patient follow-up

These actions can constitute medical malpractice if they result in patient injury or fatality.

Potential Injuries Arising from Physical Therapist Negligence

Despite the aim of physical therapy being a patient’s recovery or improved mobility, negligence on the part of therapists can lead to severe and enduring injuries, including:

  • Fractures or dislocations
  • Nerve damage or paralysis
  • Muscle tears or strains
  • Joint damage or inflammation
  • Infections or sepsis
  • Burns or scarring
  • Brain damage or stroke
  • Spinal cord injury or herniated discs
  • Deterioration of original conditions or disabilities

Such injuries profoundly affect the patient's health, finances, and overall well-being. They often necessitate further medical intervention, surgeries, medication, or therapy. The patient may also suffer prolonged pain, emotional distress, diminished quality of life, disability, or reduced earning capacity.

Potential Damages Recoverable in a Claim Against a Physical Therapist

As a victim of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to the following damages:

  • Economic damages: These are tangible losses such as medical expenses, lost wages, future income loss, and more.
  • Non-economic damages: There are intangible losses like pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, or diminished life enjoyment. There is a cap for non-economic damages, meaning there is a maximum you can recover. In Ohio, the general rule is that the cap is the greater of $250,000 or three times the amount of economic damages, up to a maximum of $350,000 per plaintiff or $500,000 per occurrence, with some exceptions for catastrophic injuries, such as permanent physical deformity, loss of limb, loss of organ, or permanent disability.
  • Punitive damages: These damages are rare and awarded in cases involving malicious or fraudulent behavior, aiming to penalize and deter such actions. They are only awarded when medical malpractice cases go to trial and are finalized via jury verdicts.

The recoverable damages for victims are based on the injury severity, losses incurred, and the degree of fault of the physical therapist. This underscores the importance of promptly consulting experienced medical malpractice lawyers to safeguard your legal rights. 

Proving a Physical Therapist’s Negligence

Succeeding in a medical malpractice claim against a physical therapist requires proving four elements:

  • Duty: This requires demonstrating the therapist's obligation to provide reasonable care per industry standards.
  • Breach: This involves proving deviation from these standards in the physical therapist’s actions or inactions.
  • Causation: This requires establishing a direct link between the therapist's breach of duty of care and the injury or worsening condition.
  • Damages: This involves demonstrating the patient’s losses were suffered due to the therapist's breach.

Proving these elements demands substantial evidence like medical records, expert opinions, witness statements, or visual documentation.

Expect counterarguments from the physical therapist or their insurers to kick out your claim by minimizing or denying liability. This level of pushback is why having an experienced medical malpractice attorney on your side is so important. 

Contact Our Ohio Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today

You deserve support and justice if you’ve been affected by a physical therapist’s negligence. At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, we have the experience, resources, and dedication to assist your claim. From case investigation to evidence collection, negotiation with insurance companies, and trial representation if needed, our Cleveland medical malpractice attorneys are committed to securing the justice and compensation you rightly deserve. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

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