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Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law FAQS
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Have you or a loved one suffered an injury or serious illness due to the actions of a doctor or medical treatment you received at a hospital? If so, you may wish to consider filing a medical malpractice claim. These issues can be intimidating and complex, so it is strongly advised you seek a Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney to help you through the process. Below are some answers to common questions regarding medical malpractice cases.
Amended Law Helps Patients File Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Claims, Effective January 1, 2023
As of January 1, 2023, a change to Pennsylvania's Rules of Civil Procedure will give patients the ability to choose where to file their medical malpractice lawsuits. Previously, patients were required to file medical malpractice claims in the county where the negligent conduct occurred. In January, cases may be filed in any county where 1. the defendant can be served (i.e., does business, has an office, etc.), 2. the negligent conduct took place, or 3. a relevant transaction or event took place.
What is medical malpractice?
If a patient is harmed by a doctor whose actions fell below accepted standards of medical care, the patient can file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Pennsylvania. This may involve a number of negligent actions, including:
- failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing a condition,
- failing to follow proper treatment procedures, or
- forgetting to warn a patient of known serious risks for a procedure or drug.
These cases can also be filed against hospitals, medical offices, medical facilities, etc. Some of the most common medical malpractice cases involve misdiagnosis of major medical conditions like stroke, heart attack, pulmonary embolism or cancer at a hospital or medical facility.
What type of compensation can I receive?
In Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawsuits, you may be eligible for compensation based on the type of damage or injury incurred.
General damages are for things like bereavement, pain and suffering, and other issues that may not necessarily be quantifiable.
Special damages are for quantifiable losses, such as medical bills, reimbursement for lost income and out of pocket costs due to the injury.
Punitive damages are rare and are meant to punish a hospital or doctor that is continually or wildly negligent, such as in cases of intentional harm. While punitive damages claims are rare in most medical malpractice cases, they may be appropriate in cases of sexual assault or abuse in hospitals, medical offices or nursing homes.
Visit our Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law Library for more information about medical malpractice lawsuits, damages, compensation, etc.
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Can I sue my doctor for failing to disclose risks of surgery?
This is a tricky question because doctors are not required by law to disclose all risks of a particular treatment or surgery, just the serious ones. This allows the patient to give their doctor what is known as “informed consent.” In order to determine if the doctor is required to obtain consent for a specific risk, the court will often consider a few questions: “Would another competent doctor have disclosed the risk?” and “Would a normal patient have made a different decision if the risk was disclosed?”
In other situations, medical professionals can’t disclose the risks of an injury for some reason. This is more common in emergency situations where a patient either is not conscious to hear and accept the risks or taking the time to do so could jeopardize their life. In these situations, informed consent is not required.
What’s the time limit to sue a doctor or hospital?
The statute of limitations in a Pennsylvania medical malpractice case depends on a few critical factors, like whether the patient died as a result of the medical negligence or when the patient learned that they were harmed by medical malpractice.
Typically, a two year statute of limitation will apply to medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania. However, when the 2 year clock starts ticking will vary. In some cases, it will be the date the malpractice occurred. In others, it will be the date of the patient’s death.
In addition, laws often change. In 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an important ruling that gave patients and their families more time to sue in medical malpractice cases.
What can I expect in a medical malpractice lawsuit?
After the lawsuit is filed, the litigation process begins. This involves exchanging evidence (discovery), testimony of the relevant parties (depositions), and preparation for trial.
Patients and their families should know that while the process can be quite lengthy and complex, the attorneys will perform all tasks during litigation, from reviewing and gathering evidence to deposing the witnesses and then preparing the case for trial. The legal team will maintain communications with patients and their families during the entire process, providing status updates and preparing them for depositions and trial. Learn more about what to expect in medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania.
Can hospitals be held responsible for medical malpractice?
Sometimes. It depends on the facts of your case. For the most part, doctors are not employees of hospitals directly, but rather independent contractors who simply practice at the hospital facilities. There are a few exceptions (primarily in situations like the emergency room) but for the most part, doctors and hospitals are separate entities legally. This is why doctors are required to carry medical malpractice insurance.
Nurses, on the other hand, are hospital employees, and their mistakes could make the hospital liable. Of course, as with doctors, there are exceptions, but usually you can hold either the hospital or the attending doctor liable in the event you are injured by a nurse.
Will I be able to sue if medical malpractice law is changed or reformed?
Absolutely. While medical malpractice and other tort law reform has been a hot topic in the news lately, your rights to compensation won’t go away. There’s no telling if tort reform will pass, or how it will impact your ability to pursue compensation because the reform proposals are widely varying. However, you and your attorney will still be able to fight to get you the compensation you deserve even after reform passes.
Last updated: August 23, 2023
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We Accept Medical Malpractice Cases Against Hospitals in the Philadelphia Area
Cases Also Accepted Across Pennsylvania
Chestnut Hill Hospital
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Roxborough Memorial Hospital
Temple University Hospital
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Crozer-Chester Medical Center (Upland)
Delaware County Memorial Hospital (Drexel Hill, Upper Darby)
Springfield Hospital (Springfield)
Taylor Hospital (Ridley)
Abington Hospital (Abington, Lansdale)
Bryn Mawr Hospital (Bryn Mawr)
Einstein Medical (East Norriton, Elkins Park)
Holy Redeemer Hospital (Meadowbrook)
Lankenau Hospital (Wynnewood)
Suburban Community Hospital (Norristown)
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Phila., West Chester, East Norriton, Meadowbrook, Doylestown, Langhorne, Sellersville, etc.)
St. Christopher's Hospital for Children
Shriner's Hospitals for Children
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