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Pennsylvania doctors seeing fewer medical malpractice claims

Patients put their lives in the hands of physicians, expecting that a certain level of care will be provided as they receive treatment and recover from their injury or illness. But when a health care professional or hospital is negligent, the potential impact on a patient's life can be permanent.

Patients who are victims of medical malpractice can file claims against whoever was negligent. But a recent article notes that medical malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania have been decreasing in number over the past few years. Legal experts say there are several reasons for the decline, including more stringent rules for filing lawsuits.

Newer laws make medical malpractice lawsuits more difficult to get to court, by requiring multiple doctors to sign plaintiffs' claims and limiting trials to counties where the alleged malpractice took place. The decreasing number could also be contributed to the growing use of private mediators in malpractice claims.

A proposed bill, the Fair Share Act, has already passed in Pennsylvania's House. This Act would make it so that lawsuit awards are proportionate to malpractice responsibility. If a jury decides that a defendant is less than 60 percent at fault, a defendant would pay only an assigned portion of the full award. Defendants with over 60 percent of the blame could foot the whole awards bill.

Under current Pennsylvania law, juries may place the entire burden of an award on a single defendant, even with only as little as one percent responsibility for malpractice, if the other defendants are in no position to pay.

Victims of medical malpractice should not shy away from seeking compensation if their injury was due to a physician's error or hospital negligence. It is beneficial to speak with someone who can help determine what the next step should be. If a doctor was negligent and injury resulted, he or she should be held responsible for their mistake.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review online, "Malpractice lawsuits in Pennsylvania continue to decline," Bobby Kerlik, 22 May 2011

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