If you sustained an injury because a Pennsylvania doctor or other health care provider acted negligently or irresponsibly, you can recover monetary damages from him or her and the facility for whom (s)he works. Medical malpractice lawsuits, however, are complicated and must proceed according to Pennsylvania law.
As FindLaw explains, Pennsylvania’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act contains a number of rules regarding the responsibilities of health care professionals and patient safety. It also sets out rules for injured plaintiffs and the lawsuits they file.
Statute of repose
Per Pennsylvania’s statute of repose, you must file suit within two years of your injury or the date on which you discovered it. MCARE, however, contains an additional provision. Assuming your injury occurred after March 2002, you must file suit within seven years of your actual injury date, regardless of when you discovered it.
There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is if your injury is due to a foreign object left inside your body during surgery that you could not possibly have known about until much later. The second is if you are filing suit on behalf of your injured minor child.
You undoubtedly will have to rely on medical experts to testify on your behalf when your medical malpractice lawsuit goes to trial. To qualify as an expert witness, however, any witness your attorney calls to the stand must have a valid license to practice medicine in Pennsylvania, another state or the District of Columbia. In addition (s)he must be actively practicing or teaching medicine or retired therefrom during the past five years.
If your witness will be testifying about the requisite standard of care that your defendant physician allegedly breached, (s)he must not only be familiar with this specific care standard, but also must practice within the same specialty or sub-specialty area as your defendant physician. In addition, if your defendant is board certified in his or her specialty area, your expert witness must likewise be so certified.
Collateral source rule
Prior to the passage of MCARE, you could recover your past medical expenses and lost wages in a medical malpractice lawsuit even if they were already paid by an insurance company or another third party. MCARE changed all that. Now you can recover only those damages for which you have not received payment prior to trial. Again, there are exceptions to this rule. The following types of benefits are exempt:
- Life insurance proceeds
- Social Security benefits
- Department of Public Welfare benefits
- Other public benefits provided by federal statute
This is general information only and not intended to provide legal advice.