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Malpractice Law

Medical Malpractice Law in Pennsylvania: An Overview

Dealing with the disease, injury or other physical or emotional fallout that results from negligence or medical malpractice is no easy feat. It is estimated that each year, somewhere around 400,000 individuals that are hospitalized experience some form of preventable issue, and upwards of 20,000 medical malpractice cases are filed each year.

It may be that you have a good case for medical malpractice. But before you go in search of a medical malpractice lawyer near you, read the following primer.

What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?

In Pennsylvania, medical malpractice is defined as “negligent or unskilled treatment by a healthcare professional that deviates from accepted medical care standards and which results in injury to the patient.” Medical malpractice is not limited to physicians; other healthcare providers can also be potentially culpable of malpractice (such as nurses and dentists).

There are four legal elements that must be demonstrated in a medical malpractice case: one, that a professional duty of care was owed to the patient, two, that there was a breach of that duty, three, that the breach resulted in injury, and finally, that there were damages that arose as a result.

In Pennsylvania, venue is also important. What this means is that the suit must be filed in the county where the malpractice occurred.

What Are Damages? (Plus a Special Note for Pennsylvania)

In a medical malpractice case, damages are defined as both economic and non-economic losses. This means that damages can be both pecuniary and physical/emotional.

That is, damages can take the form of financial losses, such as lost wages, lost future earnings, medical bills, and legal bills, among other expenses.

Non-economic losses account for the physical and emotional pain and suffering the victim endured as a result of the injury caused by the malpractice.

In Pennsylvania, there is no cap on compensatory damages that can be collected as a result of a medical malpractice case. There is, however, a limit on punitive damages, which are awarded as a “punishment” for a faulty action. In Pennsylvania, punitive damages in a medical malpractice case cannot exceed 200% of compensatory damages awarded.

Who Is Eligible to Receive Compensation for Medical Malpractice?

A medical malpractice claimant can obviously collect compensatory damages arising from medical malpractice in Pennsylvania. His or her family may also be eligible to receive compensation.

Statute of Limitations and Statute of Repose

In Pennsylvania, there is a 2 year statute of limitations to bring a medical malpractice case. Specifically, that means that a plaintiff has two years from the date at which they discover (or reasonably should have discovered) that he or she suffered an injury as a result of medical malpractice. The statute of limitations is like a legal deadline for how long you have to file the case.

In Pennsylvania, there is also a statute known as the statute of repose, which states that all suits for medical malpractice must be filed within 7 years without respect to when the injury was discovered (with two exceptions, being cases involving a minor and those involving objects left inside of the body).

What Are Common Medical Malpractice Cases?

There are a wide range of injuries that can arise from medical malpractice, which could then result in a lawsuit. Among these are:

  • Anesthesia errors, especially during surgery
  • Tubing errors
  • Birth injuries (cerebral palsy, hypoxia, spinal cord injuries, brain damage)
  • Missed or inaccurate diagnoses
  • Emergency room errors, including delays and mistakes
  • Hospital malpractice
  • Medication errors
  • Errors/failure to recognize a patient allergy
  • Wrong-site surgeries
  • The use of defective medical products
  • Surgical errors resulting in an object being left inside the patient’s body
  • Postoperative negligence
  • Hospital-acquired infections
  • Failure to administer appropriate treatment

These are only some of the more common reasons for medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania but each case is unique. Contact our medical malpractice lawyers for more information or to see if you have a case.

What If Medical Malpractice Results in Wrongful Death?

If medical malpractice results in death, the case that must be brought must be a wrongful death case pursuant to the Wrongful Death Act. In this event, the decedent’s survivors, being the immediate family members, are the ones who must bring the case and would be eligible for compensation.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case?

In Pennsylvania, only certain individuals can bring about a wrongful death case. These are the deceased individual’s parents, or the spouse or children.

In Need of a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Near You?

Not sure if you have a case and are considering seeking the help of a medical malpractice lawyer near you? Reach out to us. You’re not in this alone, we can provide help, and we stand for accountability to our clients. We also offer free case consultations, so we can help you answer questions about whether or not you have a viable case. Contact us today to get started.