On May 7, 2012, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a report regarding medical malpractice cases filed during calendar year 2011 as compared to the prior six years. For 2011, there were 1,528 medical malpractice cases filed compared to 1,491 for 2010. In 2009, there were 1,533 medical malpractice cases filed, in 2008 there were 1,602 medical malpractice cases filed , in 2007 there were 1,641 medical malpractice cases filed , in 2006 there were 1,704 medical malpractice cases filed, in 2005 there were 1,711 medical malpractice cases filed, in 2004 there were 1,819 medical malpractice cases filed, in 2003 there were 1,712 medical malpractice cases filed, in 2002 there were 2,904 medical malpractice cases filed, in 2001 there were 2,659 medical malpractice cases filed, and in 2000 there were 2,632 medical malpractice cases filed throughout Pennsylvania.
The year 2011 had the fewest number of jury verdicts when compared to prior years. More than 70% of the jury verdicts in 2011 were defense verdicts. For each of the last six years, including 2011, the number of non-jury verdicts in medical malpractice cases was in the single digits.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court uses the calendar years 2000 through 2002 as the “base years” for comparing medical malpractice case filings per year. There was a 44.1% decrease in the number of medical malpractice cases filed in Pennsylvania in 2011 when compared to the base years (the medical malpractice case filings for Philadelphia, which is the judicial district with the largest caseload in Pennsylvania, decreased by more than 65%).
The probable explanation for the significant drop in medical malpractice case filings after 2002 (the last of the base years) is that just after the base years, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made two significant rule changes that had a significant impact on the number of medical malpractice cases filed after the changes. One rule change required that medical malpractice attorneys obtain a certificate of merit from a medical professional that establishes that the medical procedure in the underlying the case fell outside the acceptable professional standard of care. The other rule change required that medical malpractice cases be filed only in the county where the medical malpractice allegedly occurred.
What do the numbers mean? Well, it does not mean that there is less medical malpractice occurring in Pennsylvania or that physicians and other health care providers in Pennsylvania are now providing a better quality of care when compared to 2002 and in prior years.
What the numbers do mean is that the legal hoops that medical malpractice lawyers must jump through in order to obtain justice for their medical malpractice victims are higher and more numerous since the changes in the rules. While some “frivolous” medical malpractice claims may not have been filed after the changes to the rules, it is much more likely that the changes to the rules have resulted in a much greater number of valid medical malpractice claims not having been filed and medical malpractice victims and their families being left out in the cold.
Who do the changes to the rules benefit most? The answer is that medical providers who commit medical malpractice that harms their patients will benefit most from the changes to the rules that make it more costly to file valid medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania.
If you or a family member are the victim of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania or in another state in the United States, you owe it to yourself and your family to contact a medical malpractice attorney to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you.
Click here to visit our website or telephone us toll free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to assist you with your possible medical malpractice claim.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.