Medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania are down from previous years. The reason may surprise you.
At the turn of the century, a landmark study by the Institute of Medicine found that hundreds of thousands of patients died every year because of preventable medical mistakes. The authors of the IOM study called for halving that number in five years - a goal that the medical industry failed to meet in spectacular fashion. Several later studies found that the number of fatally injured patients increased or remained at a similar high level. For example, in the Journal of Patient Safety, one survey of current literature found that at least 210,000 patients died because of medical harm each year from 2008 to 2011.
So hospitals are not becoming safer, as much as patients, doctors, and the community desire safer patient care. Still, medical malpractice claims are down in Pennsylvania. If hospitals are as dangerous as ever, why are patients finding it more difficult to get legal help in recovering after suffering a preventable medical injury?
Laws and courts enact "tort reform"
The problem lies in so-called "tort reform." Across the nation, legislatures have increased the difficulty for patients to recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit, with many states enacting caps on recovery and otherwise mounting obstacles for an injured patient. Pennsylvania is a part of this national trend.
Pennsylvania currently does not cap damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, but state law and court cases spanning over a decade have made recovery more difficult. For example, Pennsylvania only requires doctors to obtain $1 million in medical malpractice coverage. This has the practical effect of putting a cap on the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover in many cases. Pennsylvania courts have also made it harder for an injured patient to choose which court will hear the case, which can dramatically affect an injured patient's prospects for recovery.
The net effect is that hospitals and doctors enjoy privileges in medical malpractice suits that other businesses do not. This has meant a reduction (by nearly half) of medical malpractice claims in Pennsylvania, even though hospital error and patient injury remain problems in the industry. So what should an injured patient do?
Experienced representation matters
Injured patients must proactively protect their health and their rights. Obtaining a second opinion, having a medical expert review your case, and getting an experienced medical malpractice firm on your side are important steps on the road to recovery.
The attorneys at Gismondi & Associates have years of experience protecting patient rights and helping injured patients recover from a medical error. If you or a loved one has suffered injury because of medical negligence, speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss your legal options.
Keywords: Medical malpractice, doctor error, hospital error, lawsuit, tort reform, legal representation.