If you are considering bringing a medical malpractice claim, it is critical to understand how Pennsylvania law can affect your case. In addition to statutes of limitations on how long you have to file a claim, there are certain procedures and processes that must be followed in medical malpractice cases. Experienced local medical malpractice lawyers can advise you of your options and let you know what to expect when filing a claim.
How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim in PA?
In Pennsylvania, you have two years from the date an injury occurs or is discovered to file a medical malpractice claim. If you fail to bring a claim within this time frame, a court can dismiss your case, and you will not have any other legal recourse to pursue damages. There are extended statutes of limitations in some cases involving birth injuries or injuries to children, but it is always best to contact an attorney as soon as possible if you suspect medical negligence played a part in an injury or illness.
Medical Malpractice Laws in Pennsylvania
A medical malpractice case may be brought by a patient against any licensed healthcare provider, including a physician, nurse, mental healthcare professional, physical therapist, pharmacist, hospital, nursing home, medical practice, and other medical facilities or organizations.
The legal concept of modified comparative negligence is applied in all personal injury cases in Pennsylvania, including medical malpractice claims. This means that if the plaintiff shares any fault for their injury, an award for damages is reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault determined by a judge or jury. If the plaintiff is found to be 51% or more at fault, they are not entitled to recover damages.
In Pennsylvania, the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (MCARE) requires all healthcare providers and hospitals to carry at least $500,000 in liability insurance coverage. The MCARE Act also resulted in the creation of a special state treasury fund that pays claims in excess of the $500,000 in coverage that healthcare providers and hospitals are already required to carry.
Are There Damage Caps on Medical Malpractice Awards in PA?
There is no limit on compensatory damages that may be awarded in a medical malpractice claim in Pennsylvania. A medical malpractice attorney may be able to help you recover damages such as:
● Past and future medical bills
● Past and future wage loss
● Loss of earning capacity
● Pain and suffering
● Loss of enjoyment of life
● Loss of consortium
In rare cases, punitive damages may be awarded. Punitive damages are designed to punish the defendant for egregious conduct and may not exceed 200% of the amount of compensatory damages. In addition, 25% of any award for punitive damages must be paid to the MCARE fund.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim
Before filing a medical malpractice claim, you must first give written notice to the healthcare provider within 180 days after the injury occurred. To reduce the incidence of frivolous lawsuits, Pennsylvania law also requires a plaintiff to file a “certificate of merit” with their complaint or within 60 days of filing the complaint. A certificate of merit must state that an appropriately licensed professional provided a written statement that asserts one of the following:
● There is a “reasonable probability” that the health care provider did not meet the appropriate medical standard of care
● The defendant was responsible for the person who breached the standard of care
● Expert testimony is not required to pursue the claim
An “appropriate licensed professional” must have the proper education, training, knowledge, and experience to provide “credible, competent testimony” that the defendant failed to meet the accepted medical standard of care in the case.
Proving a Medical Malpractice Case
The burden of proof rests with the plaintiff in medical malpractice cases. This means that you must demonstrate the standard of care in the medical community for that specific treatment, that the defendant’s medical professional did not adhere to that standard, and that their deviation from the standard of care caused your injury. Medical malpractice cases can be notoriously difficult to win, so regardless of the circumstances, you should find the best medical malpractice lawyers in Pennsylvania to evaluate your potential claim.
Our medical malpractice lawyers in Chester County, PA know what it takes to work towards successful outcomes in medical negligence claims.