Pennsylvania Medical Negligence Attorneys

Have You or a Loved One Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice?

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, medical malpractice is generally defined as "negligent or unskilled treatment by a healthcare professional that deviates from accepted medical care standards and results in injury to the patient". Ditch v. Waynesboro Hosp., 917 A.2d 317 (Pa. Super. 2007). The malpractice normally involves a medical error. This error could occur in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, medication dosage and health management. Malpractice claims can be brought not only against physicians, but also other licensed health care providers such as nurses, dentists, pharmacists, etc.

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a claimant must establish 4 elements of their claim:

  • A professional duty was owed to the patient;
  • There was a breach by of the defendant of the duty owed; 
  • The patient's injury was the proximate result of the breach; and
  • The injured patient suffered damages as a direct result of the injuries.

Generally, in Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases, this element is not in dispute and it is obvious that a doctor-patient relationship existed. In addition, the healthcare provider owes the injured patient a legal duty to observe a specific standard of care


In order to establish a breach of the duty owed, the claimant must:

  • Define the applicable standard of medical care; and
  • Demonstrate that the defendant's treatment or actions violated the applicable standard of care.

The applicable standard of care in a medical malpractice case will vary depending on the type of malpractice case it is. The standard of care will depend on the type of malpractice at issue. For example, the standard of care applicable to a family doctor will vary from the standard of care applicable to a specialist such as an orthopedic surgeon. A “specialist physician is held to a higher standard of care than a general practitioner when the specialist is acting within his or her specialty.”  Winschel v. Jain, 925 A.2d 782 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2007).

In Pennsylvania, the "standard of medical care" is defined objectively as the skill, knowledge, and procedures normally used and accepted in the medical community. Claimant's establish a breach of the applicable standard of care by hiring an expert in the same field. That expert will eventually write a report and/or testify as to the applicable standard of care. The claimant's expert cannot simply say that he or she would have acted differently, rather, the expert must explain how applicable standard of care was deviated from.


After the claimant establishes the first two elements, he or she must then show that the breach was the proximate cause of his or her injuries. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the claimant can establish causation if the evidence reasonably shows that the defendant's actions or inactions were a "substantial cause" of the injuries.  

In Pennsylvania, proximate cause “may be established by evidence that the defendant's negligent act or failure to act was a substantial factor in bringing about the plaintiff's harm.” Hamil v. Bashline, 481 Pa. 256, 264-265 (1978).


The claimant must show that the harm caused by the medical negligence resulted in considerable damages. The damages recoverable include:

  • Past and Future Medical Bills;
  • Past and Future Lost Wages and Earnings Capacity;
  • Past and Future Pain and Suffering, Embarrassment and Humiliation, Disfigurement and Lost Ability to Enjoy the Pleasures of Life.
Statute of Limitations

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is 2 years from the date that the malpractice should have been discovered. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5524(2). The claimant has two years after they first discover or they reasonably should have discovered that they were injured as a result of medical malpractice.

When it comes to minors, meaning under the age of 18, the 2 year limitation period does not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of 18. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §5533.  This means that the lawsuit must be filed by the claimant's 20th birthday.

Statute of Repose

These are procedurally related to statutes of limitations, as they are both essentially legal deadlines for the time you have to file a lawsuit. Medical malpractice claims in Pennsylvania are subject to 7 year statute of repose deadline, meaning that all lawsuits for medical malpractice must be filed within 7 years of the injury regardless of when it was discovered. Accordingly, the limitations period under the statute of repose begins to run from the date of the negligent act, omission, or decision.

Due to the statute of repose, the statute of limitations can only be tolled for a maximum of seven years from the date of the negligence.

There are two exceptions to the Statute of Repose. One is for minors and the other involves claims for when foreign objects are left inside the body. 

Certificate of Merit

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, lawsuits asserting medical malpractice claims must be supported by a certificate merit. In any medical malpractice action in which it is alleged that a licensed healthcare provider deviated from the applicable standard of care, a Certificate of Merit must be filed with the complaint or within 60 days after the filing of the complaint. 231 Pa. Code §1042.3 The purpose of the Certificate of Merit is to avoid the filing of medical malpractice claims with questionable merit.


In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, medical malpractice claims have to be filed in the County where the alleged malpractice occurred. 231 Pa. Code §1006. 

Economic and Non-Economic Damages

Pennsylvania does not impose any limitations on compensatory damages (economic and non-economic damages) awarded in medical malpractice cases against private defendants. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are subject to statutory limitations. Punitive damages are subject to statutory limits in Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases. 40 P.S. §1303.505(d) provides that “punitive damages against an individual physician shall not exceed 200% of the compensatory damages awarded.” 

Comparative Negligence

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania follows the rule of comparative negligence in medical malpractice. Comparative negligence is a defense that reduces the damages a plaintiff can recover if the plaintiff's own negligent acts partly contributed to the injury. 

Types of Error and Malpractice

Medical malpractice claims can occur in many different ways, below is a list of common medical malpractice claims brought in Pennsylvania:

  • Anesthesia Error
    • Anesthesia prevents patients from feeling pain during procedures like surgery, certain screening and diagnostic tests, and dental work. Anesthesia mistakes frequently happen, and they can prove severe or even fatal.
  • Prescription Drug Mistakes
    • Doctors and Pharmacists are trusted by their patients to correctly prescribe, dispense and advise them on their medications. Unfortunately, sometimes errors occur, and when they do, they can be very serious. Patients who receive the wrong drugs might suffer from:
      • Serious allergic reactions;
      • Dangerous drug interactions; or
      • Death
  • Negligent Failure to Treat
    • This type of malpractice often result in medical malpractice claims. When a doctor is negligent and fails to provide proper care, they violate the accepted standard of care for doctors who accept patients. Examples of this includes:
      • When patients are discharged too early;
      • When patients do not receive the proper instructions for follow up care; and
      • Failing to properly check the patient's medical history when providing treatment or prescribing drugs.
  • Childbirth Injuries
    • Birth injuries can be the result of substandard prenatal care, improperly using assistive devices during the birthing process, failing to recognize the signs of fetal distress, failing to perform a c-section when necessary, and failing to recognize that the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby's neck.
  • Surgical Errors
    • When a surgical procedure is performed on a patient, the medical professionals who participate in a surgical procedure have a duty to prevent the patient from suffering harm. This duty includes the duty to prevent harm during surgeries such as elective surgeries, emergency surgeries, and outpatient surgeries. The most common type of surgical errors include:
      • Leaving medical devices inside of a patient;
      • Operating on the wrong are on the patient; 
      • Operating on the wrong patient; and
      • Failing to follow the correct procedures before, during, or after surgery
  • Misdiagnoses/Delayed Diagnoses
    • Timely diagnosis of a disease is critical to ensure the patient can be properly treated. If a patient receives a misdiagnoses or a delayed diagnoses, they might receive unnecessary treatments that might harm them or suffer worsening of their conditions because of the lack of receiving timely medical interventions for their conditions. Failing to correctly diagnose a patient can cause serious injuries or death. The most common diseases that result in misdiagnoses or delayed diagnoses include:
      • Cancer
        • Breast;
        • Lung;
        • Cervical; and
        • Prostate
      • Heart Attack
      • Stroke
      • Parkinson's Disease
      • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Emergency Room Malpractice
  • EMT Errors
Contact Us Today

If you or a loved one have been injured as the result of Medical Malpractice, call Sklarosky Law today at (570) 283-1200 or use our online contact form and tell us about your potential case. Medical Malpractice claims can be complex and challenging.  Do not wait, call us today so that we can help you obtain the financial compensation you may be entitled to.

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