2000 through 2002 were busy years for Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyers, representing the peak of medical malpractice lawsuit filings. The number of those proceedings has fallen ever since. And, last year, it reached an all-time 14-year low.
In a press release issued by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, statistics have shown that the 1,463 new cases that were filed in the Pennsylvania Civil Court system last year were the lowest number of cases filed since tracking began.
Why the decline? The largest impact came as a result of two key requirements issued by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in an effort to slow the deluge of medical malpractice lawsuits that had hit the civil court system. The first established that attorneys need to obtain verification from a medical professional that certifies that the medical treatments in a case “fall outside acceptable standards.” This verification is called a certificate of merit and a plaintiff is unable to file a medical malpractice lawsuit without one.
The second decision established that a suit could only be filed in the county where the alleged offense took place. This stopped attorneys from working on a regional scale to try to obtain clients in counties with more favorable jury pools and slowed a practice dubbed “venue shopping.” Putting it simply: a lawsuit can’t be filed in one county when the alleged malpractice occurred in another.
While the overall number of cases has dropped, the number of cases resulting in a jury verdict has risen. The 110 verdicts issued in 2013 rose to 127 in 2014. Given that 326 jury verdicts were reached in 2000, however, shows that the overall trend is a downward one.
81 percent of the verdicts reached in 2014 were in favor of the defense. 2 non-jury verdicts were also reached and one of those also went for the defense.
At first glance, these numbers can be discouraging to those injured by the carelessness and negligence of others. One might think that the trend toward ruling in favor of the defense an overwhelming majority of the time might mean that they shouldn’t continue with their own case or even bother talking to a lawyer about a potential case.
Nothing could be further from the truth. You should contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer that is equipped to help you determine if you have a valid claim and whether it makes sense to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. A knowledgeable attorney can discuss the legal requirements to file a case, the likelihood of success as well as other factors that may influence your decision.
The medical malpractice attorneys of Lopez McHugh have been holding doctors and companies accountable for over 30 years. Our attorneys offer free, confidential case evaluations and, in most medical malpractice lawsuits, work on a contingency fee basis meaning there is no cost for you unless there is a recovery.