Pennsylvania ranks only 22nd out of the rest of the states for the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed each year. That ranking comes from 2015 when there were about 23 cases filed per 100,000 residents. This number of cases amounted to a whopping $374 million in total payouts to victims of negligence, a huge amount compared to other states.
The big number for payout total does not mean that winning malpractice cases in Pennsylvania is easy for patients. The laws are complicated and they change sometimes. It is important for anyone who has suffered because of medical errors to rely on a Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyer for advice before starting a lawsuit. This professional understands the laws and can give expert advice and guidance throughout the legal process.
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law
In Pennsylvania, as in other states, the laws that govern medical malpractice have been set by the legislature and differ from those in other states. This can make understanding the laws difficult. While a good lawyer can guide patients, it is also important for patients to know what some of the most important laws are.
For instance, patients should understand that there is a statute of limitations in Pennsylvania that puts a time limit on when a lawsuit can be filed relative to when the negligence occurred. Patients have two years from the negligence, unless the injury or error could not reasonably be discovered at that time. The clock may start at the time the patient discovers the injury as long as it can be shown that he or she could not have known about it sooner. However, even with this extension, lawsuits cannot be filed more than seven years after the actual negligence happened. The only exception is when a foreign object is left inside a person’s body.
It is also important for patients to understand damages. These are the monetary awards, and they may be non-economic for things like pain and suffering, or economic for medical bills, lost wages, and other quantifiable losses. Unlike many other states, Pennsylvania has not capped these damages, which means lawyers can fight for any amount of compensation for their injured clients. This has led to some very large awards in a handful of cases in the state.
Although there is no damages cap in Pennsylvania, there is a law that critics believe limits patients’ ability to seek justice and get a fair trial. This is a requirement called the certificate of merit that must be presented along with the complaint of negligence in order for a lawsuit to be filed by the plaintiff of lawyer. Patient advocates believe this kind of requirement presents a barrier to victims seeking justice.
The certificate of merit is a signed document that proves the lawyer has consulted with a qualified medical expert whose opinion is that the case has merit. In other words a qualifying medical professional must review the evidence and patient records and form the opinion that there is proof the patient was harmed by a breach in the duty to provide a certain standard of care by a doctor or other health caregiver. Without this document a case may be dismissed before it ever goes to trial.
Medical Malpractice Cases in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, medical malpractice lawyers are the experts who are available to help victims of medical negligence seek and win justice and damages for their injuries and losses. Many of those cases turn out successful, thanks to the knowledge, experience, and commitment of the plaintiffs’ lawyers who stand by their clients, sometimes for years.
One successful case in Pennsylvania was a trial in 2012 that ended with a jury award of $3.75 million. A pregnant woman called her doctor to ask what to do about pain, swelling, and a headache. Her doctor told her over the phone to take acetaminophen. The woman had undiagnosed preeclampsia, and shortly after the phone call suffered from a seizure and a stroke. After emergency surgery the baby was delivered but suffered brain damage and now lives permanently with cerebral palsy.
An even bigger case resulted in a jury award of $47 million to the family of a baby disfigured by negligence. The baby was treated by a doctor at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center for swelling in her head after she was born prematurely. The doctor wrapped her head in ACE bandages, a practice used in his native Philippines, but not in the U.S. The little girl is now five and has a disfigured skull and cannot grow any hair. She will need multiple reconstructive surgeries but will likely be permanently disfigured.
Another big award of $40.3 million went to a Pennsylvania girl who suffered a spinal injury during delivery at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. She was born with her twin sister, but she was situated in the breech position before being delivered. The family and their lawyers claimed that the doctor did not provide her with the standard of care because he did not protect her head and neck adequately. She was born with damage that left her paralyzed from the chest down.
Finding a Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Lawyer
These cases are notable because they show how beneficial it is to have an experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyer fighting on the side of victims of medical negligence. If you have had this kind of terrible experience, you have big decisions to make and a lot of complicated laws and rules to sort through. You need a knowledgeable lawyer who focuses only on malpractice law in the state.
A good place to start your search for a lawyer is with the state bar association. This group can assure you that your lawyer is in good standing, licensed in the state, and a professional who specializes in malpractice cases. Choose your lawyer carefully, making sure that you feel comfortable working with this person, even if that means you have to ask him or her a lot of questions about past clients, trials, settlements, and outcomes. When you choose the right malpractice lawyer to work with, you can feel good that you have the best chance of a good outcome for your case.
- http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/medical-liability-medical-malpractice-laws.aspx - AL