Medical malpractice cases have reached a fourteen-year low in Pennsylvania, hitting the lowest point since 2000, when statewide tracking began.
Interestingly, during that same time period, the number of physicians in Pennsylvania has grown. Over a decade ago, physicians in Pennsylvania made the case that crushing malpractice rates, driven by an increase in malpractice cases, were causing doctors to leave the state or retire altogether. At that point, a series of Pennsylvania legal reforms aimed at reducing malpractice premiums and increasing the requirements for medical malpractice suits were implemented.
Since the reforms were put into place, medical malpractice lawsuit filings have dropped from 2,904 in 2002, to 1,463 in 2014– a nearly 50 percent drop. The number of physicians during that same time period has grown from 35,379 to 42,811. Specifically, the rule changes required attorneys to obtain a certificate of merit from a medical professional, establishing that medical procedures in the case fell outside acceptable standards and dictated that medical malpractice actions could be brought only in the county where the malpractice occurred.
Pennsylvania Residents with Valid Medical Malpractice Suits Face Difficulties
Unfortunately for Pennsylvania residents with valid medical malpractice cases, these changes have made it more difficult to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. There are fewer attorneys who specialize in medical malpractice, and those who do must spend more of their own money up front in order to take the case. Doctors, hospitals, and insurers in Pennsylvania have fewer cases to defend, meaning they can more aggressively defend the cases which are filed.
Some believe that Pennsylvania’s legal reforms are not the reason for the drop in malpractice suits; rather the change in jury attitudes has driven the decrease. Jurors don’t think about the reality of an injury through a preventable medical error unless it hits much closer to home with their own loved ones. In 2014, there were 129 medical malpractice jury verdicts across the state of Pennsylvania as compared to 326 in 2000. Ninety-eight of those 129 verdicts were in favor of the defendant. Despite public perception, multi-million dollar medical malpractice verdicts are rare, according to Cohen.
How Many Patients are Harmed by Medical Malpractice?
A 2013 study, detailed in an issue of the Journal of Patient Safety, estimated that between 210,000 and 440,000 patients suffer preventable harm which contributes to their deaths after a stay in the hospital every year. Those numbers would make medical errors the third leading cause of death in America, following heart disease and cancer. This does not take into account the serious injuries caused by preventable medical errors and medical negligence.
Medical Malpractice Cases are About More than Bad Results
In the end, it’s important to remember that medical malpractice cases are about more than bad results–they are about negligent (careless) conduct on the part of a medical professional. The most common types of medical malpractice are misdiagnosis of an illness or condition, a delayed diagnosis, childbirth injuries, medication errors, anesthesia errors, and surgical errors.
Contact Our Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyers
If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury due to the negligent actions or inactions of a medical professional, speak to an experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are fully protected. The Philadelphia law firm of McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., can help. Our team of lawyers consists of some of the best medical malpractice attorneys in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and we will fight aggressively for you throughout the legal process.
McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C. specialize in medical malpractice cases and we have decades of experience representing patients and their families across Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Dauphin, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, and Northampton counties.
We serve injured patients throughout the State of New Jersey. Contact us today at 215-568-1510 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options.