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Medical Malpractice Laws in Pennsylvania

Surgery Medical MalpracticeWhen patients are receiving medical treatment, they expect to be treated with the proper care. In most cases, they do receive quality care. However, in some instances, patients may be hurt because of mistakes or careless acts by medical professionals.

If you believe a medical professional harmed you while you were receiving treatment, contact a knowledgeable Harrisburg medical malpractice lawyer at Schmidt Kramer. He or she can review the circumstances of the case and investigate your claim to determine if compensation may be possible for you.

Call us now at (717) 888-8888 for your free consultation.

What Is Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania?

Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional – such as a doctor, nurse, rehabilitation practitioner, etc. – provides negligent or improper treatment to a patient that falls below the generally accepted standard of care within the medical community. As a result of the medical specialist’s actions, the patient suffers some type of harm. This can include:

  • Failure to diagnose a condition
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Anesthesia mistakes
  • Birth injury
  • Surgical errors

Caps on Medical Malpractice Compensation

In many states, there are laws that limit the compensation an injury victim can recover from a medical malpractice lawsuit. Pennsylvania limits damages in certain types of medical malpractice cases.

There is no cap on economic damages, which can include:

  • Current medical expenses
  • Future medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Disability
  • Lowered earning capacity

There is also not a cap on non-economic damages. These damages are not easy to quantify, and they include losses such as mental anguish, pain and suffering, and inconvenience.

However, there is a limit on punitive damages, which are intended to punish defendants who act in a particularly careless or reckless manner. The cap for these damages is twice the amount of actual damages the victim sustained. Additionally, 25 percent of any punitive damage award must be paid to the Mcare fund, which was established by Pennsylvania’s wide-sweeping Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (Mcare Act).

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is the time limit by which a claimant must file a lawsuit. If this time limit is passed, the case can be dismissed. The general statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in Pennsylvania is two years from the date of injury.

However, if the victim could not have reasonably known that he or she was harmed because of medical malpractice, the victim can be exempted from the general statute of limitations. However, no matter the situation, the victim must file the complaint within seven years from the date the injury occurred.

Other exceptions include:

  • Minority age – If the negligence harmed a minor, he or she has until his or her 20th birthday to file a complaint, or up to seven years from the date of the incident whichever is later.
  • Foreign object – If the medical malpractice is based on leaving a foreign object in a patient, the regular statute of limitations does not apply.
  • Fraudulent concealment – This exception pauses the statute of limitations if the victim could not learn about the harm the medical professional caused, because the medical specialist fraudulently concealed facts to prevent this discovery.

Certificate of Merit

When filing a personal injury lawsuit, a certificate of merit is required within 60 days of filing the complaint. The certificate of merit must be written and signed by an appropriate licensed professional, and it must include one of the following statements:

  1. The medical professional in question provided care below the required standard of care, which resulted in the victim’s injury.
  2. The defendant was responsible for others, and their treatment fell below the required standard of care.
  3. A medical expert’s opinion that medical malpractice has occurred, and the explanation behind the opinion.

If this certificate of merit is not filed in a timely manner, the case can be dismissed. 

Expert Medical Testimony

If the case goes to trial, a credible medical expert will establish what the appropriate medical standard of care is for the situation and how the defendant breached it. He or she will testify that the defendant deviated from the accepted standard of care, which led to the victim’s injury.

An expert must be:

  • A physician who is actively engaged in practicing medicine or teaching
  • Experienced in the same field or discipline as the defendant medical professional
  • Board-certified, if such a certification is available

The expert must be shown to have sufficient training, experience or knowledge to meet the statutory definition to be considered an expert. Expert testimony is not required if it is obvious to a layperson that the medical professional was negligent.

Contact a Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Most doctors provide quality care to their patients. However, others act carelessly and cause serious consequences and long-lasting effects. Schmidt Kramer’s medical malpractice attorneys are prepared to hold medical professionals to the highest standard by pursuing claims when their care falls below these standards.

Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys have helped injured patients pursue the compensation they deserved after being victimized by negligent medical professionals. We thoroughly investigate claims and inform victims of the legal options available to them.

Fill out a Free Case Evaluation form or call (717) 888-8888 to get started.