Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Laws

Helping You Understand the Nuances of Medical Malpractice Laws

Healthcare practitioners as well as patients seeking justice must understand Pennsylvania medical malpractice laws. These laws outline the rights, obligations, and legal parameters if negligent or inadequate medical treatment causes harm. 

For healthcare professionals and everyone interested in medical malpractice law, this handbook provides a detailed understanding of Pennsylvania’s medical malpractice legislation.

Quick Summary:

  • Medical Malpractice involves deviation from the standard of care, resulting in patient harm, occurring across various healthcare settings and involving different healthcare professionals.
  • Key elements of medical malpractice cases include duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
  • The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania is two years, with exceptions for discovery, minors, and specific circumstances.
  • Certificate of Merit, a required legal document filed early in the process, confirms the merit of the plaintiff’s case, including a statement from a qualified medical expert.
  • While there is no cap on compensatory damages, punitive damages are capped at twice the compensatory amount.
  • Specific rules dictate where a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed, with exceptions for Philadelphia and provisions for venue transfer.
  • Failure to obtain proper informed consent may lead to a malpractice claim, with limited exceptions and implications for comparative negligence.
  • Pennsylvania follows the 51% rule, reducing damages proportionately if the plaintiff is partially responsible, with no recovery for intentional misconduct.
  • Damages are calculated without reduction for compensation from other sources, with exceptions for gratuitous payments and limitations on subrogation.

For personalized advice tailored to your specific situation, contact our Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyer today for a free consultation. 

What is  Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider goes against the “standard of care” and harms a patient. Healthcare workers utilize the “standard of care” to treat patients with similar medical disorders under similar situations.

Medical malpractice can occur in hospitals, clinics, private practices, dentists, and nursing care. Doctors, nurses, surgeons, dentists, pharmacists, and others may participate. Medical malpractice includes misdiagnosis, surgical errors, drug errors, birth injuries, anesthetic issues, and more.

Key Elements of Medical Malpractice Cases

Patients trust qualified and knowledgeable doctors to provide the best care. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider fails to meet these expectations and causes injury.

Healthcare providers and patients must understand medical malpractice case aspects to navigate the legal system. A medical malpractice claim is founded on these fundamental factors, which require thorough consideration of the healthcare professional’s conduct, the injury, and the relationship between the two.

Duty of Care

The duty of care in healthcare involves providing the patient with the level of care that a competent healthcare professional would provide under similar circumstances.

Breach of Duty

If a healthcare professional breaches this duty, the patient must demonstrate that their actions or omissions fell below the expected standard of care.


The breach must be linked to the harm suffered by the patient, and the patient must demonstrate that the healthcare provider’s negligence was a proximate cause of the injury or adverse outcome.


Patients must have experienced genuine suffering or damages due to healthcare professionals’ breaches of duty. Damages include physical injuries, emotional anguish, medical bills, lost wages, and other measurable losses.

Each element requires convincing proof, frequently from medical specialists who can testify about the standard of care and the healthcare provider’s role in the patient’s injuries.

Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Pennsylvania’s medical malpractice statute of limitations is two years. If you believe you were a victim of medical malpractice, you have two years from the injury or when it should have been detected to sue.

It’s essential to note a few key details:

  • Discovery Rule: Pennsylvania’s discovery rule starts the statute of limitations when the injured party learns or reasonably should have discovered the injury. This acknowledges that medical negligence may not immediately affect the patient.
  • Minors: For cases involving minors, the statute of limitations is tolled (paused) until the minor reaches the age of 18. This means that the two-year clock typically starts running when the individual turns 18.
  • Exceptions: Pennsylvania law also includes some exceptions and nuances, so it’s crucial to consult with legal professionals to understand how these rules apply to specific circumstances.

Statute of Repose

Medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania have a seven-year statute of repose. Regardless of when the harm is detected, the seven-year statute of repose limits medical malpractice lawsuits.

Certificate of Merit in Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Pennsylvania medical malpractice claims depend on the Certificate of Merit to screen out instances without a plausible basis early on. This legal document must be filed with the initial lawsuit as an affidavit proving the plaintiff’s case is valid.

Key points about the Certificate of Merit in Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawsuits include:


The Certificate of Merit is designed to ensure that a qualified medical professional has reviewed the plaintiff’s case and believes there is a reasonable probability that the care provided deviated from acceptable professional standards, resulting in harm to the patient.


The Certificate of Merit must be filed within 60 days of the filing of the initial complaint. This tight timeframe underscores the importance of the early involvement of medical experts in the legal process.

Expert Witness Requirement

The Certificate of Merit typically includes a statement from a qualified medical expert who attests to the deviation from the standard of care. This expert witness must be a licensed professional in the same field as the defendant’s healthcare provider.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Failure to file a timely and accurate Certificate of Merit can have serious consequences for the plaintiff’s case. It can lead to the dismissal of the lawsuit if the court determines that the plaintiff has not provided sufficient evidence of malpractice.

Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Damages Cap 

There is no cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania.  This includes compensation for medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. 

However, punitive damages, which are designed to punish the defendant and deter others from similar behavior, are capped at twice the amount of compensatory damages. It’s important to seek legal advice from our Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyer to understand the potential value of your claim.

Medical Malpractice Venue Limitations

Pennsylvania has specific rules regarding venue, which is the geographic location where a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed. Venue rules are designed to ensure fairness in legal proceedings and may influence the outcome of a case. 

Key points regarding venue limitations in Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases include:

County of Occurrence

A medical malpractice lawsuit is filed in the county where the alleged malpractice occurred. This is known as the “county of occurrence.” The idea is to have the case heard in the location where the events giving rise to the lawsuit transpired.

Defendant’s County of Residence

There is also a rule that allows a medical malpractice lawsuit to be filed in the county where the defendant healthcare provider resides or has their principal place of business. This can provide a level of convenience for the defendant.

Exceptions for Philadelphia

Philadelphia County has unique rules regarding venue in medical malpractice cases. The venue in Philadelphia is not limited to the county of occurrence or the defendant’s county of residence. Instead, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed in Philadelphia if the defendant regularly conducts business in Philadelphia.

Transfer of Venue

There are mechanisms in place for the transfer of venue if there is a request from one of the parties involved. The court may consider factors such as the convenience of witnesses and parties, the interests of justice, and other relevant factors in deciding whether to grant a request for a change of venue.

It’s crucial to consult with our medical malpractice attorney to get accurate and current information on venue limitations. We can provide guidance specific to your case and any legislative changes that may have occurred.

Informed Consent Actions and Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice

A medical malpractice claim may result from a failure to get informed consent. educated consent allows patients to make educated healthcare decisions by receiving information about the risks, benefits, and alternatives of a planned medical procedure or treatment.

Emergency situations when consent cannot be obtained are exempt under Pennsylvania law. Few exceptions exist, and healthcare providers must acquire informed consent before non-emergency operations.

Comparative Negligence

Medical malpractice cases are governed by a modified comparative negligence standard. This means that if a plaintiff is found to be partially responsible for their injuries, their damages may be reduced proportionately. However, there are specific rules and limitations regarding comparative negligence in medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania.

51% Rule

Pennsylvania follows the 51% rule, which means that a plaintiff can recover damages as long as their negligence is not greater than the combined negligence of all the defendants. In other words, if the plaintiff is 51% or more responsible for the injury, they are barred from recovering any damages.

Proportional Reduction of Damages

If the plaintiff is found to be partially responsible for their injuries but not more than 50%, their damages are reduced proportionately. For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 20% at fault, their damages would be reduced by 20%.

No Recovery for Intentional Misconduct

Pennsylvania law does not allow recovery for damages if the plaintiff’s injuries were the result of intentional misconduct or if the plaintiff was engaged in criminal activity at the time of the injury.

Informed Consent as a Factor

The issue of comparative negligence may also arise in the context of informed consent. If a patient is found to have contributed to their injury by not following the healthcare provider’s instructions or by making an informed choice against medical advice, it could impact the damages awarded.

Collateral Source Rule

Pennsylvania follows the Collateral Source Rule in personal injury cases, including medical malpractice cases. The Collateral Source Rule is a legal doctrine that affects how damages are calculated in civil cases, particularly those involving personal injury.

Definition of Collateral Source

The Collateral Source Rule allows a plaintiff to recover damages from the defendant without any reduction for compensation received from other sources, such as insurance, workers’ compensation, or health insurance. In other words, payments or benefits received by the plaintiff from collateral sources are not subtracted from the damages awarded.

Compensation from Other Sources

If a plaintiff has received compensation from sources other than the defendant (collateral sources), the defendant is generally not allowed to introduce evidence of these payments during the trial. This includes compensation from health insurance, disability insurance, or other benefits.

Exception for Gratuitous Payments

Pennsylvania recognizes an exception to the Collateral Source Rule for gratuitous payments, meaning payments that the plaintiff did not contribute to or for which they did not pay premiums. In such cases, the defendant may be allowed to introduce evidence of these gratuitous payments.

Limitations on Subrogation

Pennsylvania has limitations on subrogation, which is the right of an insurer to recover the amount it has paid from the party responsible for the injury. The Collateral Source Rule can affect subrogation rights and the extent to which the defendant is responsible for reimbursing collateral sources.

Why Do I Need A Medical Malpractice Attorney?

The answer lies in the multifaceted nature of these cases, where medical intricacies intersect with the complexities of the legal system. You need a medical malpractice lawyer for several critical reasons, particularly: 

  • Legal experience in medical malpractice laws
  • Interpreting medical standards
  • Investigative skills
  • Navigating statutes of limitations
  • Access to medical experts
  • Negotiation and settlement experience
  • Courtroom advocacy

Our medical malpractice lawyer is essential for understanding the nuances of medical malpractice laws, building a strong case, navigating legal complexities, and maximizing your chances of obtaining fair compensation for the harm you’ve experienced.

Call Our Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today!

Our team of dedicated medical malpractice lawyers is here not just to help you understand Pennsylvania medical malpractice laws, but also to guide you through every step of the way. We understand the challenges you may be facing and are committed to fighting for your rights.

At PA Malpractice Lawyers P.C., we strive to hold negligent parties accountable for their actions not just in medical malpractice claims, but also in personal injury cases, birth injuries, and wrongful deaths. 

Your well-being is our top priority, and we are here to provide the support and legal guidance you need during this difficult time. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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