Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law – Patients Face Uphill Battles


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Patients Who’ve Suffered Due to Medical Negligence Face Many Hurdles in Pennsylvania’s Civil Justice System

1. Pennsylvania’s Certificate of Merit Requirement

In 2003, the Pennsylvania legislature severely limited injured patients’ abilities to bring medical malpractice actions against hospitals and doctors in this state. In 2003, the legislature enacted a law which requires special certificates to be filed in all medical malpractice actions.

So called “certificates of merit” are basically formal acknowledgements of viability from medical experts, and not just any medical experts. Medical experts who provide these certificates must be qualified to render an opinion. This means that in a case against a board certified orthopedic surgeon, only another board certified orthopedic surgeon can render the opinion necessary to substantiate a certificate of merit.

So naturally, obtaining a certificate of merit can easily cost $5,000 to $10,000 dollars, fees paid to medical experts to examine the medical records and make a call as to whether malpractice occurred. Since passage of this law, medical malpractice actions in Pennsylvania have been on the decline.

2. Malpractice Actions Filed in Pennsylvania Have Decreased Over the Last Decade

According to data compiled by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, roughly 45 out of over 50 counties in Pennsylvania saw large decreases in the number of medical malpractice actions filed. Philadelphia saw the largest decrease, almost 70%. In Philadelphia there were roughly 1000 medical malpractice actions filed in the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, compared to just 389 actions in 2012. Similar trends were noted in the following counties:

  • Allegheny,
  • Dauphin,
  • Delaware,
  • Lehigh,
  • Mercer, and
  • Northampton.

However, a few counties saw marked increases, such as Montgomery County and Lancaster County.

Of course, it’s possible that there has been a significant change in the healthcare system and that doctors and other medical professionals aren’t making as many mistakes as before. However, this is highly unlikely when many within the healthcare system have been pushed to increase profits by treating more patients. For instance, hospitals have been pushed to maximize profits and treat more and more patients, which means that hospital staff are often stretched thin. These types of situations are ripe for medical mistakes.

Victims of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania were dealt another blow late last year, when a new law went into effect. The Benevolent Gesture Medical Professional Liability Act now allows doctors to apologize for mistakes without fearing that such statements can be used to prove fault. This is significant because the majority of medical malpractice actions are filed because the patient doesn’t get answers or gets the run around. Many victims of medical malpractice will shy away from filing a lawsuit, satisfied that their doctor or surgeon apologized. Over time, this can have a chilling effect on medical malpractice litigation.

To submit your case for review by our Pennsylvania and New Jersey medical malpractice lawyers, call Click To Call for a free consultation.

Our lawyers are available for a free, no obligation legal consultation, and can obtain special admission in other states, such as New York or Delaware, on a case by case basis.

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