Often, medical malpractice lawyers are questioned by individuals who have had a bad outcome from a surgery or other treatment, and are seeking a potential lawsuit against a physician or other healthcare provider. However, just because a patient experienced a bad outcome does not necessarily mean that the healthcare provider was negligent. Sometimes, it merely means that the end result was not as good as the patient anticipated.

Pennsylvania law requires that the parties in a lawsuit present expert testimony at trial to support the existence of negligence on the part of the defendant healthcare provider. The expert must be qualified in the same area of expertise as the individual being sued. For example, you can’t have an expert dermatologist appear for either the plaintiff or the defendant if the case involves a possible mistake by a neurosurgeon. Both parties will need a neurosurgeon expert to testify.

Initially, the plaintiff must have an expert who reviews the medical records and can state that there has been a breach of the standard of care, in other words “negligence,” on the part of the healthcare provider. In addition, the expert must state that the aforementioned breach was the cause of the damages that the plaintiff claims occurred.

Once the plaintiff’s attorney has an opinion from an expert supporting the claim, the attorney must then file a Certificate of Merit with the court. A Certificate of Merit is a document that simply states the attorney has obtained an expert who supports the plaintiff’s claim. If the plaintiff is unable to provide a Certificate of Merit from a qualified expert, the suit will be dismissed by the court.

This documentation is critical, because it signifies that the plaintiff’s claims were not without merit. Courts want to avoid wasting time on frivolous lawsuits and focus on the cases that involve proven negligence.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a potential medical malpractice incident, it is recommended that you reach out to experienced legal counsel immediately to discuss the details of your situation.