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The Basics of Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law
There are many medical mishaps that can result in a medical malpractice claim in Pennsylvania. Birth injury, misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, and errors in anesthesia administration are all examples of acts that could result in violations of Pennsylvania malpractice law.
If you live in Pennsylvania and have sustained an injury while under a medical professional's care, then you will want to develop a basic understanding of Pennsylvania medical malpractice law. You should also look into consulting with a medical malpractice lawyer to help you determine whether you have a strong case against the medical professional or entity.
What Is Pennsylvania Malpractice?
According to Pennsylvania malpractice law, medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other healthcare professional commits medical negligence. Medical negligence occurs when the healthcare professional breaches, or violates, the standard of care.
A standard of care is the generally accepted medical practices used by a group of medical professionals in the same geographic area for patients suffering from a particular disorder or illness. This standard can change depending on a number of factors, including the patient's prior medical history and age.
In addition to committing an act of medical negligence, to have a medical malpractice claim this act must have directly resulted in the patient's injuries. In other words, it is not enough that medical negligence occurred. Rather, you and your attorney will have to prove that the negligent act caused the injury. Proving this can be difficult, and often requires the input of medical experts.
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
All states establish their own statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. The statute of limitations sets the amount of time a patient has to file a lawsuit against a medical provider.
According to Pennsylvania malpractice law, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is two years. This two-year countdown does not begin until the point where the patient discovers or reasonably should have discovered that the injury occurred.
For cases arising after March 2002, there is an additional statute which applies. This statute states that injured patients are allowed up to seven years from the date the medically negligent act occurred to file suit. This means that if the injury is discovered more than seven years after the medically negligent act occurred, the patient will not be able to file a lawsuit against the medical provider.
Because of the tight time restrictions placed on patients, it is important for injured parties to seek a lawyer's help as soon after injury occurs as possible. In addition, by being proactive with your claim and seeking the advice of medical malpractice lawyers, Pennsylvania malpractice law will not seem as intimidating.
Damages in Pennsylvania Malpractice Cases
When you file a claim against a medical provider, the compensation you are seeking as a result of your lawsuit is known as damages.
Pennsylvania malpractice law allows patients to collect several types of damages. The first type is known as compensatory damages. Compensatory damages pays injured patients for actual costs, such as medical bills and lost wages due to time taken off of work.
There are also non-economic damages. These are damages that compensate the patient for intangible costs, such as pain and suffering.
Pennsylvania has no caps when it comes to compensatory and non-economic damages. This means that state medical malpractice laws do not limit how much a court can award you for these types of damages.
The final type of damages available to patients is known as punitive damages. These damages serve to punish doctors and other healthcare professionals whose recklessness causes injury to a patient. This recklessness might take the form of malicious actions or fraud. If there is no intentional misconduct on the part of the healthcare professional, then state law caps punitive damages at 200 percent of compensatory damages. In addition, 25 percent of all punitive damages awarded to a patient must go into a special fund known as the MCARE Fund. This fund serves to pay patients whose claims exceed the healthcare provider's malpractice insurance coverage.