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The Certificate Of Merit And What Its Doing For Med Mal Cases

As many of our Pennsylvania readers know, suffering an injury due to someone else’s negligence often leads to a desire to seek compensation from the guilty party. In the case of medical malpractice, that negligent party is usually a hospital or its medical staff. But in order to prove negligence, the plaintiff must show that the medical personnel or hospital did not provide care to the acceptable industry standard.

While this has not changed, a rule that was adopted on January 27, 2003 and last amended in March 2013 could have shifted the playing field in favor of the defense. Some argue this is becoming the case because it requires plaintiffs to get a written statement from a licensed professional in many personal injury cases, including medical malpractice lawsuits. These written statements must show that there was a deviation from the “acceptable professional standard.”

Although the licensed professional who signs the certificate of merit is not required by Pennsylvania law to testify at trial, they do need to be considered an “expert with sufficient education, training, knowledge and experience to provide credible, competent testimony.” But because the laws regarding the certificate of merit could be confusing to interpret, especially without the help of legal counsel, a plaintiff may not know they need to obtain this document, which could make their allegations difficult to prove.

It’s possible that this increased burden of proof could be why the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Court says that it has noticed a decline in the number of malpractice lawsuits over the course of the last decade. But it’s important to point out though that a decrease in the number of med-mal cases does not necessarily reflect the number of medical errors performed across the state. The data also does not show how many cases did not go to trial and ended in settlements — two very important pieces of information we hope our readers will keep in mind.

Sources: Wearecentralpa.com, “Pa. Medical Malpractice Cases Drop Significantly,” June 23, 2014

pacode.com, “Rule 1042.3. Certificate of Merit,” Accessed June 25, 2014

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