Should Pennsylvania Level the Playing Field for Those Hurt by Medical and Hospital Malpractice?

February 21st, 2019 by Rieders Travis in Medical Malpractice

malpractice attorney

Is the deck stacked against patients trying to win a medical malpractice verdict or settlement in Pennsylvania? Many attorneys who represent those harmed by hospital and medical malpractice have been finding that this is the case.

In the early 2000s, there were accusations by medical providers that too many lawsuits were being filed.  Barriers in the law made in 2002 drastically reduced possibilities of filing and winning a lawsuit, to the point where many patients who were victims of malpractice are unable to obtain compensation.

Among the limiting restrictions placed by the reforms are:

  • Creation of rules restricting where medical malpractice cases could be filed, although no other type of litigation was involved. For example, those who are injured by medical and hospital malpractice can no longer file at the headquarters where the big hospital may do business, but rather must file where the malpractice occurred, even if it is in a remote area.
  • A requirement that lawyers handling medical and hospital malpractice suits sign a “Certificate of Merit” based upon a statement of an expert in the same or similar field as the doctor being sued. This is sometimes impossible since doctors retaliate against doctors who testify for lawyers and restrict information through secretive peer review.
  • Restrictions of punitive damages which are intended to punish doctors and hospitals for outrageous conduct and other barriers making lawsuits expensive, delayed and difficult to prevail in.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to negligent or incompetent medical or hospital care and safety, you should seek legal representation to determine whether you can be compensated for your loss. However, due to the complexity and issues involving medical malpractice, your case must be handled correctly and competently by an experienced attorney. 

The skilled and experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney Clifford A. Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann has spent decades honing his skills and successfully representing Pennsylvania families who have suffered an injury or loss due to negligence and incompetent malpractice by medical professionals and institutions.  Our attorneys offer personal attention and loyalty to every client, aggressively fighting for their right to compensation.

We offer a free consultation to examine the facts of your case and determine how we can help, so contact us online or call our offices today.

What constitutes medical malpractice?

According to Pennsylvania law, medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional commits medical negligence by violating the generally accepted standard of care used by other medical professionals in the same or similar field. The medical negligence must be a substantial factor resulted in the patient’s injuries.

To prove malpractice, these elements must be present:

  1. There was a violation of the “standard of care” – the degree of prudence and caution required of a medical professional who is under a duty of care.
  2. The injury was a factual cause of the actions or omission of the doctor or hospital.
  3. The injury led to the kind of damages permitted in Pennsylvania.

What problems do the restrictions cause?

Since it is the burden of the victim to prove malpractice by a preponderance of the evidence, placing extra burdens and restrictions on the process makes it more difficult to prevail in a legitimate medical and hospital malpractice suit.

In smaller, more rural counties, the local hospital or health system is often the main employer, with an outsized proportion of the jury pool working for the local system or having a personal connection. In some areas, like Philadelphia, with their high concentrations of hospitals and medical schools and doctors, it may also be difficult to find jurors who lack health care ties.

As a result, the high chances against winning a case discourage lawyers from representing deserving victims, and people refrain from bringing legitimate cases. In addition, Pennsylvania’s venue rule for medical malpractice claims means they are handled differently than other civil lawsuits, which is unfair.

Progressively fewer medical malpractice cases have been filed in Pennsylvania, and fewer victims are winning. The number of medical malpractice lawsuits that resulted in a jury verdict dropped from 326 per year in the three-and-a-half years leading up to the 2002 reforms to 102 in 2017.

Another problem with the jury pool is that jurors have been poisoned by untruthful information.  Jurors have been told that doctors are leaving the state.   This is untrue.   In fact, the ratio of patients to doctors has actually improved in Pennsylvania.   There are more doctors and healthcare providers in Pennsylvania than ever before.

What Can be Done

The following are suggestions to help correct the malpractice imbalance:

A committee of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is considering getting rid of a very unfair venue rule that requires cases to be brought only in the county where the malpractice occurred even though the institution may be headquartered and have facilities in many other counties.  This rule should be withdrawn.  There is no reason for it and when it was established, it was only considered to be temporary.

Eliminate secretive peer review.   Pennsylvania law permits hospitals to investigate malpractice but to keep the results absolutely secret.  Even though the doctors may not be able to find out about dangerous healthcare practitioners.   This practice should be eliminated and there should be statewide peer review.

Information from the Pennsylvania’s “Patient Safety Authority,” should be given out by hospitals.   Under the law, as it currently stands, Patient Safety Authority data can only be given out by region.   This is a serious restriction.   Hospitals and doctors should receive “report cards” where the public can obtain information on safe hospitals and doctors.

Medical malpractice is one of the leading causes of death in America.   We must empower patients to have information about what doctors and hospitals are safe and those which are not.

Consider the findings of Pennsylvania’s “Patient Safety Authority,” which receives reports on medical mishaps, including “serious events,” unanticipated occurrences during medical treatment that hurt or kill patients. The purpose of reporting them to the Authority is to study and learn from them, but the fact that the number of serious events is higher than the number of malpractice lawsuits shows that the deck is stacked against patients.

Trust Our Firm for Informed Answers

If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to medical or hospital malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses, including medical and hospital costs, cost of rehabilitation, lost wages, loss of wage horizon, loss of life’s pleasures, disfigurement, and pain and suffering.  However, medical malpractice law is highly regulated by a complex body of rules, and your case must be handled properly or you may never receive the compensation you are entitled to.

Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, the experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys of Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann are thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome.  With our competent staff, we offer strength in numbers while providing top-notch personal service.

Cliff Rieders is a Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.  Rieders helped to write the Mcare Law which the law that governs medical and hospital malpractice cases in Pennsylvania.   He was President of the Trial Lawyers when the law was passed.   He appointed members to the Negotiating Committee.   Rieders has won numerous awards and recognition from the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, and he received the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority recognition award.  Cliff Rieders was a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority and served on same for 15 years.  Rieders was a Law Clerk in the federal court system for one of the most well-known and longest serving federal judges in the country, the Honorable Malcolm Muir.  Cliff has received the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, as well as the Milton D. Rosenberg Award from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers.  Rieders is on committees and organizations that write the law in many fields of practice.  Cliff Rieders was involved in the writing of the Mcare Act, which governs medical liability actions in Pennsylvania.  Cliff Rieders wrote the book on medical malpractice that lawyers use in the state.  Cliff teaches the subject of medical malpractice at seminars attended by the leading lawyers in the state.  Cliff Rieders is recognized as an outstanding authority in the medical malpractice field.  Cliff has even testified before the legislature on medical malpractice laws. Rieders is a Nationally Board-certified specialist for Civil Trial and Civil Practice and Procedure, a cum laude graduate of New York University as well as Georgetown University Law Center.  Rieders is admitted in Pennsylvania, New York State, District of Columbia and numerous federal courts including the Supreme Court of the United States.  Rieders is a life member of the American Law Institute which publishes recommended legal principles utilized throughout the United States.  Cliff Rieders is the lawyer that other lawyers call for counsel and advice in the medical and hospital malpractice and pharmaceutical/vitamin supplement fields.  Cliff Rieders does substantial work in multi-district litigation in connection with pharmaceutical products and medical devices.

Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all personal injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.

Do not delay. Contact us online or call our offices today to set up your free consultation.

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