Thanks to a few well-publicized cases, in the United States there is often a perception that lawsuits are always on the rise. However, at least in Pennsylvania, medical malpractice cases seem to be heading in the opposite direction. According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, there has been a decline of over 43 percent in malpractice cases filed across the state from the early 2000s.
Specifically, the review examined cases from the time period between 2000 and 2002 to 2013. In the early 2000s, the state Supreme Court made two wide-ranging changes to
cases, making the drop in lawsuits unsurprising to those who are familiar with the Pennsylvania legal landscape. First, the court required cases to be filed in the same county in which the alleged malpractice occurred. Secondly, the state's highest court demanded attorneys present a certificate of merit documenting the relationship between the medical procedures at hand and the acceptable standards of the field.
Interestingly, while the sheer number of malpractice cases has dropped in Pennsylvania, medical liability rates have jumped up drastically, some rising over 100 percent over the past few years. This may be due to the fact that in Pennsylvania, unlike other states, there are no strict limits in place on the amount that a jury may award a victim regarding non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. An instance of medical negligence, such as a surgical error, can unleash a host of damages upon a person, from physical disability to disfigurement to the inability to earn an income, parent a child or even stand up and walk. As a result, some settlements may be in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars if juries believe the amount is merited.
For any victim of medical negligence, the medical expenses alone can be completely overwhelming. Pursuing compensation for damages in the form of a malpractice suit may be the only way such individuals can meet the financial challenges suddenly thrust upon them. Discussing their situation with an experienced malpractice attorney is one step among many, but often the first step in holding a negligent party accountable.
Source: The Times Tribune, "
Medical malpractice filings drop from 2000s average
," Michael Iorfino, July 5, 2014