Medical Malpractice Law in Pennsylvania
Each year thousands of people become the victim of medical malpractice. According to the Institute of Medicine, preventable medical errors kill as many as 98,000 Americans every year. Malpractice occurs when doctors or other medical professionals violate the standard of care. Many of these cases are the result of preventable medical errors. Injured victims have the right to seek damages through the civil justice system by filing a lawsuit against the doctor, hospital or insurance company that insures the practitioner.
In a civil lawsuit, the burden of proof remains upon the plaintiff to show that negligence occurred. The four legal element required by law include the following:
• Duty of Care - A duty of care was owed to the plaintiff because a contractual relationship existed between the patient and the medical provider.
• Breach of Duty - The duty of care was breached when the standard of care fell below the reasonable professional standard.
• Proximate Cause - The breach of duty was the direct cause of injury to the victim.
• Damages - The plaintiff's injuries resulted in damages and they are entitled to seek compensation to cover the costs of medical treatment, lost wages and pain and suffering.
All claimants who bring a medical malpractice action in Pennsylvania must obtain a Certificate of Merit signed by a qualified physician before filing the lawsuit.
Statute of Limitation in Pennsylvania
The law limits the time in which malpractice litigation must begin. This is known as the statute of limitations and claimants in Pennsylvania have two years to file a lawsuit. However, the statute of limitations does not actually begin to run until the injured victim discovers or should have discovered that they were harmed due to the negligence of others. Minors who are injured through medical malpractice have two years after they turn 18 to file a claim.
Pennsylvania Statute of Repose
In 2002, the Pennsylvania state legislature passed the Medical Care and Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Act. This legislation includes a section that is known as the Statute of Repose. This places a time limit on when the victim must file a claim, even if the discovery rule applies and it extends the time in which litigation must commence. Claims must be brought within seven years after the plaintiff became injured. However, this does not apply to cases where a foreign object was left in the person's body during surgery.
When to Hire a Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Attorney
The State of Pennsylvania does not limit the amount of attorney fees in medical malpractice cases. This means that the plaintiff has the right to recover all costs incurred due to malpractice litigation. All malpractice cases in Pennsylvania require the testimony of an expert witness. The expert witness is needed to establish that the defendant's care of the patient fell below the normal standard in that particular field of medicine. Since each medical malpractice case is different, it is best to consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in handling malpractice claims.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter Wendt is a writer and researcher who makes his home in the American South. He has often used ML-Law.net as a resource while writing about medical malpractice lawyers in Philadelphia. He recommends checking out their site.