Decline in Medical Malpractice Cases in Pennsylvania Slows, Levels Off
Learn more about trends in medical malpractice lawsuits, and what they mean for you.
June 01, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Compared to the years 2000-2002, the past nine years have seen markedly lower numbers of medical malpractice lawsuits in the Keystone State. But, the final tally is in for 2011, and it shows that the trend may be slowly reversing.
Two Rule Changes Instituted a Decade Ago Resulted in Fewer Malpractice Claims
What caused the steep decline in Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases? Most experts point to two key changes made by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2003.
First, for lawsuits initiated in 2003 or later a rule change required Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys to obtain a certificate of merit from a medical professional before a legal complaint could be filed. In order to grant a certificate of merit, a medical professional must agree that there is a "reasonable probability" that the doctor being sued departed from the accepted standard of care in the case.
Second, from 2003 on Pennsylvania attorneys could only file medical malpractice lawsuits in the county in which the alleged malpractice took place. The purpose of this rule was to curb a practice known as "venue shopping" in which some attorneys searched for a court more likely to view their client's case favorably.
Yearly Data on Medical Malpractice Filings in Pennsylvania
In 2002, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts reported 2,904 medical malpractice filings within the state. By 2011, that number had dropped to 1,528, a 47 percent decline. However, 2011 medical malpractice filings were up about 1.5 percent compared to 2010.
What Does It All Mean?
Although hospital safety has likely improved somewhat over the last decade, most legal experts cite the medical malpractice rule changes at the primary driver of the precipitous 10-year decline. Laura Feldman, president of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, believes that before the rule changes, "casual malpractice lawyers" could keep the lights on by pursuing weaker cases in more favorable venues like Philadelphia County. These attorneys have now been forced out of the medical malpractice marketplace.
"Essentially, the people who have done this work and are experienced in the work are filing the cases at this point in time," Ms. Feldman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in May.
While the rule changes may mean a better field of lawyers for victims of medical malpractice, the uptick in cases from 2010 to 2011, both years in which the new rules have long been in place, could correspond to an increase in medical errors. If you believe you or a family member may have been harmed by a medical mistake, get in touch with a Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney today to explore your options.
Article provided by Ronald J. Bua & Associates
Visit us at www.ronaldbua.com
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