Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Medical malpractice claim numbers in Pennsylvania

There's been debate whether the decrease in medical malpractice claims filed in Pennsylvania has been due to rule changes or is part of a nationwide trend that is seeing a reduction in claims being filed. During the past decade while health care costs have increasing risen across the nation, medical malpractice payments have decreased by about 12 percent.

One advocate for patients feels that the cost of professional liability for physicians has been overstated. Payment for liability insurance premiums in 2009 was just 0.4 percent of the nation's health care costs.

Pennsylvania made two significant rule changes concerning medical malpractice liability in 2003. One was the requirement that attorneys representing clients in such matters obtain a "medical professional certificate of merit" that would demonstrate a medical mistake fell outside of what is considered accepted professional standards. Another requirement was that such medical malpractice claims could only take place in the county in which the malpractice allegedly took place.

It is also suggested that the reduction in numbers of claims may be due to insurance companies and medical professionals becoming far more aggressive in fighting such claims. Lobbying to reduce caps on malpractice claims has prevented certain attorneys and clients from bringing such lawsuits while medical errors continued.

However, the decline may be leveling off. In fact, medical malpractice claims in Pennsylvania saw a slight increase in 2011.

Legislation has been in place for some time, and without a reduction in medical mistakes there is nothing that will cause the numbers of claims to be reduced any further. "There are way too many medical errors and that needs to be addressed," the advocate was quoted as saying. "Fixing the problem of medical errors will do more to make doctors happy than all these efforts to suppress litigation."

Source: Pennlive.com, "Medical Malpractice Claims Hold Steady Across Pennsylvania," May 8, 2012

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