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Three Things to Know about Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Rules

By: Anapol Weiss

Certain Pennsylvania laws can affect the outcome of a person’s medical malpractice claim – and even whether that claim can be filed at all. Below are three important rules that apply to Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases.

1. Time Limits for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim

Statutes of limitations limit the amount of time person has to file a lawsuit. In Pennsylvania, the deadline to file a medical malpractice claim is two years after the date the plaintiff knew or reasonably should have known the following: an injury occurred; a medical professional’s conduct caused the injury; and there is a relationship between the injury and the health care provider’s conduct. In Pennsylvania, medical malpractice lawsuits are also subject to a seven-year statute of repose. A medical professional liability action must be brought within seven years of the date the injury occurred, regardless of the above factors. One exception is a claim that involves a foreign object left inside the body.

There are special rules for minors. For children under age 18 who are injured, they have two years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit from the date of their 18th birthday (or the date of majority, i.e. their 20th birthday).

Victims of medical malpractice who do not file a lawsuit before the applicable deadlines could be barred from obtaining justice and compensation for the malpractice that injured them. It is critically important to contact an attorney at the earliest time to allow sufficient time to investigate the matter.

2. Compensation

Patients injured by the negligence of health care providers are able to recover economic and non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are those that do not have a definite price, such as pain and suffering and loss of life’s pleasures. A jury determines the dollar value for non-economic damages based on a patient’s individual situation and injuries. Economic damages cover lost wages, medical bills and other quantifiable expenses related to the injury. Unlike many states, Pennsylvania does not have a cap on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, which means there is no limit to the amount of compensation a victim can obtain.

However, Pennsylvania does limit the amount of punitive damages – rarely awarded damages imposed to punish the defendant for outrageous behavior. Pennsylvania caps punitive damages against a physician in a medical professional liability action at two times the amount of the actual damages in a medical malpractice case.

3. Future Medical Expenses

The periodic payments rule in Pennsylvania requires that damages be paid in installments by year for future related medical expenses the patient is expected to incur total more than $100,000. Future damages are determined year-by-year by the jury, taking into account inflation and expected medical care improvements.

Contact Our Firm for Assistance

Medical malpractice lawsuits are complex legal matters that present many obstacles for the plaintiff. A thorough understanding of state law is just the beginning – medical malpractice lawyers must also have the experience and skill to uncover evidence, work with expert witnesses, and ultimately prove their client’s case.

If you or a family member was harmed as a result of medical negligence, our award-winning Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyers can help. Contact us for assistance.