Does Pennsylvania Cap Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases?
In Pennsylvania, people see their doctors or go to the hospital with the expectation that they will receive good treatment for their medical conditions or injuries. While people place a lot of trust in their doctors and other health care providers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others sometimes make mistakes. While doctors are not expected to be perfect, they are expected to provide treatment that meets the accepted standard of care within their fields and locations. A doctor who deviates from the expected standard of care when providing treatment may cause the patient to suffer serious injuries or even result in death. Medical malpractice claims might involve serious, debilitating injuries or deaths and involve substantial damages. Here is some information from the medical malpractice attorneys at Raynes & Lawn about the damages that might be available in Pennsylvania.
Understanding the Standard of Care
Medical malpractice in Pennsylvania occurs when a health care provider violates the professional standard of care for practitioners in his or her type of practice in the local area. The standard of care that applies is the generally accepted medical practice of a group of similar medical professionals in the same region who treat patients suffering from the same type of injury or illness. For example, the treatment provided by a plastic surgeon in Philadelphia would be compared to the treatment that a reasonably competent plastic surgeon in Philadelphia would provide under the same treatment conditions. The care provided by the plastic surgeon in Philadelphia would not be compared to what a reasonably competent plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, California would provide. This means that the accepted standard of care will vary based on the geographic region and the field in which a doctor practices medicine.
To determine the accepted standard of care, it is necessary for medical malpractice attorneys to work with medical experts. The experts can review the course of treatment and the medical records to determine the appropriate standard of care and evaluate whether the treatment a doctor provided deviated from it. Pennsylvania requires plaintiffs to file certificates of merit attesting that a medical expert has reviewed what happened and believes that the treatment provided was substandard when they file medical malpractice lawsuits.
If the doctor or another health care professional violated the accepted standard of care and caused the patient’s injuries and specific damages, the patient might then have the right to pursue damages against the responsible parties to hold them accountable for their actions or failures to act. Through a medical malpractice lawsuit, you might be able to recover monetary compensation for the losses you have suffered because of the defendant’s negligence in the provision of substandard treatment.
Does Pennsylvania Cap Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases?
Some states have established caps on the total amount of noneconomic damages a plaintiff can recover in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Medical malpractice claims might involve several different types of damages. Compensatory damages include the special and general damages you have suffered as a result of a doctor’s medical negligence. Special damages refer to your actual pecuniary losses, and general damages include your non-economic losses. Some examples of the different types of compensatory damages that might be available include the following:
- Past and future additional medical expenses caused by the doctor’s medical negligence
- Past lost wages
- Reduction in your earnings capacity
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish/emotional distress
- Disfigurement and scarring
Medical Malpractice Cap in Pennsylvania
Unlike some other states, Pennsylvania does not cap the total amount of compensatory damages that plaintiffs can recover in medical malpractice lawsuits. You are allowed to recover full compensation for the economic and non-economic losses you have suffered because of a medical provider’s malpractice. By contrast, some states cap the damages that plaintiffs can recover in an effort to try to discourage people from filing medical malpractice lawsuits. This means that seriously injured plaintiffs in some states might not be able to recover full compensation for their losses. Pennsylvania does not place a cap on compensatory damages, however.
There is a cap on the total amount of punitive damages that can be recovered in a Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawsuit, however. Punitive damages are not designed to compensate victims for their losses. Instead, they are designed to punish defendants who have acted in a particularly outrageous or egregious way to deter them and others from engaging in similar conduct in the future. As a result, punitive damages are rare in medical malpractice cases. When they are awarded, they are awarded in addition to the compensatory damages a plaintiff recovers.
Punitive damages might be awarded in a case involving serious injuries when a doctor’s conduct was more than negligent and was instead reckless. For example, if a doctor was intoxicated when he or she performed surgery and then performed it on the wrong patient, it is possible that punitive damages might be awarded. When punitive damages are awarded, they are capped at no more than three times the amount of compensatory damages. However, the cap can be waived if the defendant’s actions were intentional rather than negligent or reckless. In the medical treatment setting, malpractice rarely involves intentional conduct. If you can prove that a doctor’s acted intentionally and caused your injuries and harm, you can circumvent the cap on punitive damages and potentially receive an unlimited punitive damages award. In most cases, however, punitive damages will not be available. Your attorney can help you understand whether they might be available in your case.
Talk to the Attorneys at Raynes & Lawn
Being the victim of medical malpractice can be life-altering and devastating. A Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney at Raynes & Lawn can evaluate your case and explain the legal remedies that you might be entitled to pursue. We can also analyze what happened and explain the different types of damages that might be recoverable and assess the value of your potential claim. To learn more about your options and rights, call us today at 1-800-535-1797.
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