A physical therapist’s job is to rehabilitate injured patients and help people with mobility, strength, flexibility, and coordination. They must be experienced in treating a wide range of injuries and ailments in people of all ages and physical capabilities.
Like all healthcare professionals, physical therapists have a responsibility to their patients to uphold a certain standard of care. When they fail to do so, they can be held liable for medical malpractice.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is another term for medical negligence. Medical providers are negligent when they deviate from the proper standard of care acceptable for their profession. To put it another way, the provider failed to care for their patient properly.
Medical malpractice can occur at pretty much any point in a patient’s relationship with their healthcare provider. Some common instances of medical malpractice negligence are:
- Diagnostic errors—delayed or incorrect diagnoses, or testing errors;
- Surgical mistakes—i.e., anesthesia miscalculations, operating on the wrong body part or patient, or leaving tools behind in the patient’s body;
- Treatment mistakes—providing the wrong treatment for something serious;
- Medication errors—incorrect prescriptions or failing to account for drug interactions; and
- Birth injuries—mistakes made during labor or neonatal care.
Plaintiffs in malpractice lawsuits must be able to prove that the medical professional acted negligently and their negligence caused the injuries. Not every poor result from medical treatment will be medical malpractice.
In the case of physical therapy, you might not progress as quickly as you had expected, or you might suffer some unexpected soreness or side effects from the therapy. However, if the therapist adhered to the accepted standard of care for physical therapists in that situation, those issues would not constitute malpractice.
Examples of Malpractice in Physical Therapy
Medical malpractice in physical therapy is possible where the therapist fails to provide rehabilitation or treatment at the accepted standard of care that another physical therapist in a similar situation would provide. Some common types of physical therapy malpractice include:
- Improperly using biophysical agents, i.e., hydrotherapy or TENS units;
- Dropping a patient;
- Over-stretching connective tissue;
- Over-extending a patient’s joints;
- Ignoring signs that the patient is in an unreasonable level of pain;
- Failing to supervise patients during therapy;
- Using broken or damaged equipment;
- Failing to adhere to a physician’s orders for treatment; and
- Failing to inform patients of treatment risks.
Common injuries stemming from physical therapist malpractice include fractures, herniated discs, burns, muscle or ligament damage, and loss of use of limbs.
You must be able to show that the injuries you suffered came directly from the physical therapist’s failure to provide the appropriate level of care. This can be difficult in situations where someone is already injured before they request help from a healthcare provider. Physical therapists often depend on assessments from other doctors or prescriptions for certain types of rehabilitation. Sometimes those assessments could be inaccurate, which means that the doctor who provided them could be held liable as well.
What Legal Remedies Are Available After Physical Therapist Malpractice?
In New Jersey, injured patients have two years to file physical therapy malpractice cases. Medical malpractice compensation generally includes economic and non-economic damages. The purpose of malpractice damages is to compensate the plaintiff for their injuries. Economic damages are quantifiable in that they can be calculated based on past expenses and projected future financial losses. Economic damages are tangible expenses that include:
- Past and future medical treatments related to your injuries; and
- Wages lost and lost capacity to earn wages in the future because of the injuries.
Non-economic damages are harder to quantify because they do not have a dollar amount already attached. They include:
- Pain and suffering experienced because of the injury;
- Scarring, disfigurement, or permanent disability; and
- Loss of enjoyment of life.
An insurance adjuster or jury will determine the amount of your non-economic damages. An expert might be necessary to help calculate projected economic damages for medical treatment and lost wages. Your attorney can help you figure out an approximate value for your case. It is impossible to fully predict a medical malpractice settlement amount, however.
There is no such thing as an “average” medical malpractice settlement, as each case is highly dependent upon its own circumstances and facts.
Do I Need an Attorney for a New Jersey Physical Therapy Malpractice Claim?
It is essential that you not attempt to litigate a medical malpractice claim without adequate legal representation. You will be dealing with healthcare providers and their insurance companies. These entities will each have their own legal counsel that is specifically experienced in handling such claims.
Their interests are to pay as little as possible and to make your lawsuit go away as quickly as they can. You need an attorney to ensure that you are not taken advantage of and that you can recover as much compensation as possible for your injuries.
O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble Are New Jersey Medical Malpractice Attorneys
O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble have experience assisting clients with many different types of medical malpractice claims, including physical therapist malpractice. We have a proven record of success in obtaining settlements and verdicts in these matters.
If you, or someone you love suffered serious injuries as a result of a physical therapist’s negligence or other medical malpractice, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.