Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Laws
In a large-scale tort reform effort undertaken by the state of Pennsylvania in 2002 under the rubric of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act (MCARE Act), and through ongoing judicial decisions upholding the legality of medical malpractice law in Pennsylvania as practiced in 2016, the Pennsylvania statewide system of a pooled medical liability coverage fund remains intact.
Defining Medical Malpractice under Pennsylvania Law
Medical malpractice is the negligent or improper treatment of a patient by a professional in the medical field, with the resultant outcome of the patient’s treatment featuring some semblance of loss, harm, or damages sustained as the result of the negligent treatment by a medical professional. Ultimately, defining what constitutes proper treatment in a given patient’s case is difficult to discern, and in turn, certain aspects of Pennsylvania medical malpractice law seeks to ensure that a given claims case, when filed, actually presents a viable claims case involving medical negligence and damages stemming from professional medical malpractice.
Medical Expert Witness Testimony Required to File under Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law
Claimants in Pennsylvania malpractice cases must provide expert testimony in the form of a credible medical expert with experience and practice in the same field or discipline as the medical professional alleged to have performed negligently in a given case. This medical expert witness must demonstrate, on behalf of the plaintiff in light of the facts and evidence present in a given case, that a given medical provider did, in fact, deviate from the normal standard of care applicable under Pennsylvania medical malpractice law. However, the claimant and medical expert testimony prior to filing suit must demonstrate that the medical professional’s negligence resulted in the injuries and damages substantiating the medical negligence tort claim by the patient. Per Pennsylvania Revised Civil Statute 1042.3, a medical expert affidavit of merit is required to file suit against a given medical professional in the event of suspected or alleged instances of malpractice causing medical and other damages to a patient.
Statutes of Limitations Applicable to Medical Negligence Claims in Pennsylvania
Like all other states, Pennsylvania adheres to a litany of state-specific statutory and procedural approaches that vastly differ from other state jurisdictions in some cases. For claims cases arising from instances of medical negligence ostensibly occurring within the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania, a claims case most likely will be subject to the variegated nuances of Pennsylvania medical malpractice law.
Foremost, applicable state medical malpractice laws in Pennsylvania give the individual given the individual claimant and former patient up to two (2) years to file a medical negligence tort claim, and instances of delayed discovery, Pennsylvania adheres to a discovery of harm rule as well, allowing the injured patients exemptions to the statutes of limitation period in the event that an otherwise reasonable patient would not have known or could not have known of their damages stemming from medical negligence prior to the two (2) statutory limit on claims filing passed. Certain exceptions, such as in the case of minors who are permitted to start the statutorily limited period upon reaching adulthood, do exist, which can prevent the tolling of statutes of limitation in Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases on a case-specific basis, typically predicated on the discovery of harm caveat permitted by law.
Statutory Caps on Damages Imposed under Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law
Within the state malpractice laws in Pennsylvania, there is no cap on compensatory damages, otherwise known as economic damages and including non-economic damage claims in most instances as well. However, the Pennsylvania medical tort reform of 2002 mandated that no less than a quarter of any medical malpractice award be paid to the MCARE Fund, with funding being derived from the plaintiff’s ultimate damage award amount. Moreover, Pennsylvania does not impose statutory caps on the attorney or legal counsel fees, which have been held unconstitutional and banned in the state of Pennsylvania since 1984.
Pennsylvania Adheres to a Modified Comparative Negligence Standard
Per the Pennsylvania Constitutional Statutes, Title 42, Section 7102, the negligence doctrine deployed the by state of Pennsylvania in medical malpractice cases is one of modified comparative liability, with several liabilities being permissible under PA law, with the assigned degree of fault to each party being determined by the trier of the facts of the case. In particular cases, instances of intentional fraud, intentional harm, or if a patient is more than sixty (60%) percent liable for his or her harms, which necessarily vitiates a large degree of any proposed medical malpractice recovery.