Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Laws

Medical malpractice is defined as the negligent acts of medical professionals while they are performing their duties and cause injury to the patients. The lack of care, or the giving of unneeded and dangerous care are both instances that can trigger medical malpractice. The standard of care given is below the set standard of care that is listed in the laws of the state of Pennsylvania and also in the patient's chart. The following information may help you decide if you have suffered medical malpractice at the hands of a professional.

Medical malpractice can be any of the following:

  1. Misdiagnosis of, or failure to diagnose, a disease or medical condition
  2. Failure to provide appropriate treatment for a medical condition
  3. Unreasonable delay in treating a diagnosed medical condition

Many medical professionals provide more than adequate care in Pennsylvania daily. They carefully read the charts and double check to be sure they are following the standard of care expected by the patient or the family of the person in care. Unfortunately, there are some who fail to provide adequate care. The following people may be liable for a medical malpractice suit:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Dentists
  • Pathologists
  • Neurologists
  • Oncologists
  • Cardiologists
  • Toxicologists
  • Pharmacologists
  • Nursing home or staff
  • Hospitals or hospital workers

How to Prove a Medical Malpractice Claim

Proving malpractice is a lot like proving simple negligence to the court. The four elements are as follows:

  • The health care provider owed the plaintiff a duty of care
  • The health care provider breached that duty of care
  • The damage to the patient was caused by the health care provider
  • The patient was damaged

In other words, the medical provider agreed to assist by using one's expertise to treat you medically. The standard level of care was not given and harm was caused by something that the medical provider either did or failed to do. In the end, the patient under the medical provider's care must prove that he or she was damaged in some way.

It really is so similar to negligence that you can simply remember that malpractice is "negligence by a medical provider." The health care provider has a much higher standard of care than does, say, a salesperson or someone who is fixing your car.

Damages and Collateral Source Rule

In Pennsylvania, there is no cap placed on the damages that a patient or plaintiff can receive if a suit is brought and damages are awarded. Another part of this award, though, is that there can be no piggy backing on payments. If you have received, from a health insurer, an award for the damages you received and these reparations are provable, you cannot seek to be recompensed again by suing the person or institution involved.

Joint and Several Liability

Joint and several liability is when a group of people or institutions are being sued in the court of law by an individual for injury that he or she suffered. Each and every defendant in the case is liable for the whole amount of the judgment that the court hands down. If one defendant cannot pay then the other defendants are liable for the entire amount that is being handed down. Pennsylvania has abolished this rule and it is no longer possible to sue someone or a group this way. There are exceptions to this law though and those are for cases involving intentional misrepresentation, release of hazardous substances, violations of the state liquor law and finally, when the defendants are 60 percent or more at fault for the plaintiff's injuries.

Statute of Limitations

You have a two year window to file a case of medical malpractice in the state of Pennsylvania. Anyone who is under the age of 18 and is still depending on elders for room and board can file a suit within two years of his or her 18th birthday. Emancipated minors may file suit within two years from the date the injury happened.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

Additional Medical Malpractice Articles

Search LawInfo's Medical Malpractice Resources

Lead Counsel Rated Law Firm

Click Here to Learn More