Medical & Surgical Malpractice Lawsuits in Pennsylvania – Cost-Effectiveness


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Deciding whether to file a medical or surgical malpractice lawsuit in Pennsylvania is a tough decision for injured patients and their families. Oftentimes, a patient suspects that their medical professional committed malpractice, but can’t get a solid answer from anyone. Half of the time, simply knowing the truth is half the battle. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania law does not favor patients in this regard; the law makes it difficult for patients to file medical malpractice lawsuits.

Related: Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law Update (Feb. 2014) – A Doctor’s Admission of Fault

Medical malpractice cases are some of the most complex types of tort or injury cases in Pennsylvania. This is due in large part to recent changes to medical malpractice law in Pennsylvania. About 10 years ago, the medical health insurance industry as well as the medical professional industry fought hard to change how medical malpractice cases are handled. Their efforts paid off. Patients who are injured due to the negligence of medical professionals are required to hire medical experts to validate their claims before filing a lawsuit. This is Pennsylvania’s certification of merit requirement in all professional liability cases (i.e., medical or surgical malpractice).

The problem is that the costs of hiring an expert are quite high. Some of these pre-lawsuit costs can easily reach tens of thousands of dollars per expert, and oftentimes, multiple experts are needed. For instance, in a surgical malpractice case involving a post-op infection, both a surgical expert as well as an expert in infections may be required.

Related: Hospital Negligence & Malpractice – Common Types of Hospital Mistakes

Ultimately, these expenses create an impediment to filing lawsuits against medical professionals because the basic question (whether to bring a lawsuit or not) boils down to an issue of cost-effectiveness. Basically, the issue becomes whether the nature of the injury and how the alleged negligence affected the individual are serious enough. If the injuries are not serious enough, then it will not be cost-effective to proceed and hire a medical expert(s).

Injuries in Medical Malpractice Cases

The types of injuries in medical malpractice cases which will usually justify the initial process of obtaining experts are:

  • death,
  • loss of limbs/loss of use,
  • loss of fetus,
  • serious disfigurement,
  • multiple, invasive surgeries/other medical treatment, and
  • other significant, permanent injuries which result in disabilities.

Example – Botched Surgery Results in Post-Op Infection (Sepsis)

A surgeon has a resident perform an abdominal surgery. The resident accidentally lacerates the intestine, and the mistake is not caught. The patient develops sepsis, an often deadly bloodstream infection. The infection is discovered before the patient dies, but not before the patient suffers kidney failure. The patient’s kidneys suffer permanent damage requiring life-long treatment including dialysis. Here, the sepsis and permanent damage to the kidneys will justify the initial phase of hiring a medical expert to identify the surgical error and resulting sepsis.

If, however, the mistake was caught immediately, i.e., the surgeon or resident discovered the error before finishing the procedure, and there was no resulting damage, the negligence/mistake would not have caused any real damage. Therefore, even though there was a surgical mistake, the fact that the patient did not suffer any serious resulting injury negates any medical malpractice lawsuit.

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Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Law Firm

The Philadelphia based law firm of Laffey, Bucci & Kent handles medical and surgical malpractice cases throughout Pennsylvania. Please call our office and ask for a free case review. Click To Call

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