PA Medical Malpractice Claims Decline by 45 Percent Since 2002

December 29, 2011

According to the annual report of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on the level of medical malpractice litigation in the state, new case filings continue to decline for claims of negligence on the part of doctors, nurses and hospitals. In 2010, 1,491 medical malpractice cases were filed in Pennsylvania. This figure represents a modest decrease from the annual average of 1,674 new cases established over the period 2003-09. By contrast, in the period 2000-02, a total of 8,195 medical negligence actions were filed, or an annual average of 2,731 new cases each year. The 2010 total represents a 45 percent decrease from the annual average number of cases filed in 2000-02.

Legislative Changes Affect the Filing of Medical Negligence Cases

Court administrators, medical negligence lawyers and malpractice liability insurers agree that the decline in Pennsylvania medical malpractice filings reflects the impact of legislative changes that went into effect in 2002 and 2003. That legislation required plaintiffs’ attorneys to obtain a certificate of merit from medical experts before the case could go forward in court, required that the credentials of the experts providing the certification closely match those of the defendant medical professionals, and provided that claims could only be filed in the county where the alleged negligence occurred. Because some Pennsylvania counties are regarded by plaintiffs’ attorneys as difficult venues for complex or high-stakes claims, the legislature’s restrictions as to where a case can be filed probably accounts for a significant portion of the declining trend in medical malpractice filings. This factor is borne out by the results of the cases that go to a jury. Although only about 10 percent of medical malpractice cases are tried to conclusion, those that are decided by a jury tend to favor the defense. Of the 163 cases that went to a jury in 2010, only 30, or 19 percent, were decided in the plaintiff’s favor.

Call (215) 545-8800 in Philadelphia for a Free Consultation

Today, medical malpractice litigation in Pennsylvania is more difficult than ever from the plaintiff’s perspective, and anyone interested in discussing a potential medical negligence claim should work with attorneys experienced with the challenges of developing the case, presenting it in court and protecting its value. Philadelphia medical negligence attorney James McEldrew has nearly 30 years of experience with the proof of liability and damages against physicians, nurses and hospitals over tough opposition. Contact his office for a free consultation.