The number of medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania has been on a steady decline for the last 15 years. This is due to significant changes in Pennsylvania medical malpractice law which were enacted in 2003. One of those changes was the certificate of merit requirement. It makes it more difficult for patients who believe they have experienced medical malpractice to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. In order to proceed with a lawsuit, the patient must first obtain an expert opinion validating the case. In other words, a medical expert (another doctor, surgeon, etc.) must review the medical records and determine whether there is a viable medical malpractice case.
Failure to comply with the certificate of merit requirement will result in dismissal of the case. Pennsylvania courts routinely dismiss cases for failure to comply with this strict legal requirement. The problem is that getting expert opinions can cost upwards of $10,000 or $20,000, sometimes more in especially complex cases. In some instances, multiple experts are needed. The high costs associated with investigating medical malpractice cases has scared many away. As a result, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits throughout PA has been decreasing.
Despite the Decreased Filings, Recent Jury Verdicts Have Broken Records
However, despite the decrease in the number of filings, recent jury verdict awards have been quite high. In the last few years, counties which have been historically conservative when it comes to medical malpractice cases have seen some record breaking awards. For example, in Delaware County last year, a jury awarded a record breaking $12 million to a man who argued he became paralyzed due to negligence of a major hospital in Upper Darby. Last month, a Northumberland jury awarded over $600,000 to a man who suffered a mini-stroke with resulting brain injuries. Northumberland County (Sunbury, PA) has been one of the most difficult counties with respect to success of medical malpractice lawsuits.
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Info – A Recent Look at Case Filings
According to data compiled by Pennsylvania courts, there has been a 44% decrease in the number of medical malpractice case filings in Pennsylvania since 2000. Here’s a look at some of the data in some of the largest counties in Pennsylvania including Allegheny, Delaware, Northampton and Philadelphia.
Northampton County saw one of the most significant decreases, 81% over a fifteen year period. In 2000, there were 73 medical malpractice lawsuits in Northampton County. By 2015, that number had dropped to just 14. Similarly, Philadelphia County also saw a major decrease. In 2000, there were over 1200 filings, and by 2015, there were just 381 filings. This is the trend across most of the counties in Pennsylvania.
Lancaster, Luzerne and Montgomery Counties – Bucking the Trend
Despite the overall trend, a handful of counties in Pennsylvania actually saw increases in medical malpractice lawsuit filings. Montgomery County and Lancaster County saw some of the most significant increases.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Filed in Lancaster County, PA
In Lancaster County, there were just 7 medical malpractice filings in 2000. Ten years later, there were 12 filings. Here’s a look at the trend from 2010-2015:
Lancaster County Medical Malpractice Lawsuits 2010-2015 Table
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Filed in Montgomery County, PA
In Montgomery County, there were 22 medical malpractice filings in 2000. Ten years later, there were 66 filings. Here’s a look at the trend from 2010-2015:
Montgomery County Medical Malpractice Lawsuits 2010-2015 Table
In both Lancaster and Montgomery, there was a sharp increase in the number of medical malpractice lawsuit filings beginning in 2011. Since then, the annual numbers have remained steady, roughly 35 and 95, respectively. One explanation is the shift in population, relative to the large medical facilities and hospitals in the two counties. Over the last decade, the younger, more liberal demographic has increased in these counties which have historically been very conservative. This affects the success of medical malpractice cases. From the standpoint of a medical malpractice lawyer, cases have a higher chance of success in counties with a more liberal demographic.
The trend is clear. The number of Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases has decreased. However, juries have been increasingly sympathetic in medical malpractice lawsuits. Patients and their families should not be scared away by the trend, and instead, should focus on seeking advice from an experienced lawyer who can determine whether there is a viable case or not.
About Laffey, Bucci & Kent
Our injury lawyers handle medical malpractice cases against hospitals, surgeons, specialists, etc. Over the last decade, lawyers at the firm have obtained a combined $150 million for their clients across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Contact our firm for a free consultation. Our lawyers handle matters in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, etc. 215.399.9255
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