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The Basics of Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law

Every state has different medical malpractice laws. It may not seem fair but your legal options can depend on the location where your hospital or doctor is located after a medical injury. State laws can impact the medical malpractice lawsuit process, timelines to file a case, and the amount of money you can recover after a medical mistake. 

It is important to talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney who understands the court process and state laws in your state. The trial attorneys at Gilman and Bedigian have years of experience dealing with medical malpractice cases in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania. If you want to know if you have a medical malpractice case or how much your case may be worth, contact Gilman and Bedigian for advice. Contact our office today online or by phone at 800-529-6162.  

Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Cases

A Pennsylvania medical malpractice case is a type of personal injury claim involving alleged negligence against a doctor, hospital, or healthcare provider. The elements of a medical malpractice lawsuit include: 

  • Duty of care of a doctor to their patient
  • Breach of duty by deviating from the standards of medicine
  • Causing an injury
  • Resulting in harm to the patient

Any injuries or harm suffered by the patient that is caused by the negligent doctor’s care is the basis for recovering compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit involves showing the doctor’s malpractice caused the injuries and the patient is seeking money damages, which can include compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and future costs of care. 

There are many types of medical errors that result in malpractice claims. Some of the common issues for medical malpractice in Pennsylvania include: 

Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Pennsylvania

Personal injury lawsuits, including medical malpractice cases, generally start with filing a complaint. A complaint is the legal document that is filed with the court that lays out the basis for the lawsuit. It generally includes the parties involved, basis for a medical malpractice claim, and damages requested. The defendants are usually represented by their medical malpractice insurance carriers who handle the legal defense in a malpractice lawsuit. The defendants file an answer to the complaint, and the lawsuit progresses from there. 

The next stage of a lawsuit is known as “discovery.” Each party exchanges information and evidence with the opposing side. This process can take months or longer as the parties coordinate the exchange of information. Discovery evidence can include: 

  • Medical records
  • Hospital records
  • Testimony from witnesses
  • Deposition testimony from plaintiffs and defendants
  • Interrogatories (written responses to answers)

In some cases, the plaintiff may also have to go through an independent medical examination (IME). An IME is supposed to be an independent evaluation from a doctor that does not have an interest in the case. However, an IME may not always be as independent as one would hope. This is because the doctor who does the examination is chosen by the insurance company. 

After discovery is completed, the parties may begin negotiations. A medical malpractice lawsuit can be settled at any time, from before the complaint is filed up until the day of trial. Settlement is the outcome of most medical malpractice cases and these lawsuits rarely go through a full trial. This is because a settlement can be the best option for all parties, where the injury victim gets an assured amount of compensation and the defendants are released from legal claims. If you have a question about settlements in medical malpractice lawsuits, talk to your Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney. 

Certificate of Merit from a Medical Expert

Medical malpractice cases have different requirements than other types of personal injury lawsuits. Under pressure from the healthcare industry, Pennsylvania has introduced a “certificate of merit” requirement before a malpractice case can go forward. This means that a licensed professional has to review the case and indicate there is a basis for the lawsuit or the claim can be dismissed. 

Under Pennsylvania Code Rule 1042.3, “In any action based upon an allegation that a licensed professional deviated from an acceptable professional standard, the attorney for the plaintiff, or the plaintiff if not represented, shall file with the complaint or within sixty days after the filing of the complaint, a certificate of merit signed by the attorney or party that either:

  • An appropriate licensed professional has supplied a written statement that there exists a reasonable probability that the care, skill or knowledge exercised or exhibited in the treatment, practice or work that is the subject of the complaint, fell outside acceptable professional standards and that such conduct was a cause in bringing about the harm, or
  • The claim that the defendant deviated from an acceptable professional standard is based solely on allegations that other licensed professionals for whom this defendant is responsible deviated from an acceptable professional standard, or
  • Expert testimony of an appropriate licensed professional is unnecessary for prosecution of the claim.”

This is something your medical malpractice attorney will handle. In most cases, your attorney will reach out to medical experts to review the claim and identify any deviation from acceptable professional standards. The doctor or expert who signs the certificate of merit may or may not be the same professional who provides an expert report and testifies at trial. 

Limited Time to File a Malpractice Case in Pennsylvania

There is a time limit when filing a personal injury, medical malpractice, or wrongful death lawsuit in Pennsylvania. The time limit is known as the “statute of limitations.” A statute of limitations is a “drop dead” date for medical malpractice lawsuits. If the lawsuit is filed even one day late, it may result in the case getting dismissed with no chance of recovery for the injury victim. This is why it is so important to reach out to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as you find out about a medical injury. 

In Pennsylvania, a medical malpractice claim must be filed within 2 years from the date the injury occurred. However, there are some exceptions that may allow for additional time. Do not assume you qualify for an exception and talk to an experienced malpractice attorney as soon as you can to make sure your case is filed in time.  

When the medical injury victim is a minor, they may have additional time to file a lawsuit. The time limit is stopped or tolled until the child turns 18. After the child turns 18, the clock begins to run and they have to file a medical malpractice claim before they reach age 20. 

There may also be an exception when the injury was discovered later. This is common in some types of medical malpractice claims, including left-behind surgical object injuries. In a retained foreign object injury, the doctors left behind some surgical material inside the patient. The patient may suffer pain, infection, and other symptoms but it can take months or years before the cause of the injury is discovered. 

Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations begins to run from the time the injury victim finds out about their injury or reasonably should have found out about the injury. However, under Pennsylvania’s statute of repose, there is a maximum time limit even for a late-discovery injury, of no more than 7 years. 

How Much Can I Recover in a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Case?

In a personal injury lawsuit, the injury victim is seeking “damages.” Damages is the legal term that refers to losses related to negligence-caused injuries. For example, in a car accident lawsuit, damages can include medical bills and vehicle damage expenses. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the damages can be much higher, depending on the extent of the injuries. Economic damages after a medical injury in Pennsylvania can include: 

Non-economic damages can also be recovered in a medical malpractice claim. These include losses for: 

  • Pain and suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Disability
  • Loss of enjoyment in life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Emotional distress

The damages available in a medical malpractice lawsuit can depend on the extent of the injuries. For permanent disabilities and catastrophic injuries, the damages can be much higher. If the injury victim is younger and suffers permanent injuries, their damages may also be higher because they will have to live with the impact of the injury for the remainder of their life. Your Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney can tell you more about how much you can recover in damages. 

Is There a Limit on Damages in Pennsylvania?

In some states, including Maryland, Ohio, and West Virginia, there is a cap on noneconomic damages in medical negligence cases. Almost half of states have caps on damages in malpractice cases. The good news for Pennsylvania injury victims is that non-economic damages are not capped in the Commonwealth. 

Under Article III, Section 18 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania, “in no [other than workers’ compensation] cases shall the General Assembly limit the amount to be recovered for injuries resulting in death, or for injuries to persons or property.” 

Philadelphia Area Hospitals and Medical Centers

There are more than 6 million people in the Greater Philadelphia area, including parts of Delaware and New Jersey. With so many people, there are several area hospitals and medical centers. There are also some well-regarded teaching hospitals associated with medical schools in Pennsylvania, including the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Thomas Jefferson University. Some of the general hospitals in the Philadelphia area include: 

The largest hospitals in Philadelphia by bed size (by number of staffed beds) are Temple University Hospital, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The following provides information on the location and approximate number of beds for these hospitals:

Temple University Hospital
Approximately 979 staffed beds
3401 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19140

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Approximately 908 staffed beds
111 South 11th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Approximately 807 staffed beds
3400 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Wrongful Death in Fatal Malpractice Accidents

If someone dies as a result of negligent medical care, their estate representative or family members may be able to recover compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit can allow the family to receive money for loss of support, burial expenses, funeral costs, and other damages caused by the death. Like personal injury claims, there is a statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania. In most cases, a wrongful death claim must be filed within 2 years of death. 

Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law Firm Results

Experienced trial attorneys understand complex medical malpractice cases and how to get the best results for their clients. Experienced lawyers like H. Briggs Bedigian and Charles Gilman have a strong reputation in the medical malpractice legal community. Representing patients and their families in Philadelphia at their Market Street location close to City Hall. Our attorneys have won a number of jury verdicts of over one million dollars, including 3 jury verdicts of over $20 million, including a $55 million award in a birth injury case.  

If you want to know if you have a medical malpractice claim, contact an experienced medical malpractice law firm for legal advice about your rights. A medical malpractice attorney can look at your case, review your health records, and help you understand the basics of medical malpractice claims in Pennsylvania. With an experienced attorney on your side, you can recover the maximum damages for your injuries. Contact a law firm that handles Philadelphia medical malpractice cases like yours. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.

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