This article will discuss the medical malpractice bias by jurors in Allegheny County and throughout western Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania law says to win a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that a doctor was negligent, and caused harm. In western Pennsylvania and in Pittsburgh, the standard is even higher.
Western Pennsylvania is a region dominated by the health care industry. As such, it naturally creates a bias in favor of doctors and hospitals. While this is a good thing for the healthcare industry, and we are fortunate to have them, it is bad for victims of malpractice.
Juries will unanimously agree that lawyers and medical malpractice lawsuits are driving up the health insurance costs for all of us. This may or may not be true, but the perception is the reality.
In addition, almost every single juror will know someone who has a personal history or who is affiliated with UPMC, West Penn Health System, and/or some other doctor, nurse or hospital.
Most good medical malpractice cases do settle. However, for those cases that do not settle out of court, and will be decided by western Pennsylvania juries, you better have 3 things.
The laws states that a doctor is negligent if they deviate from the acceptable standard of care. The problem is that in every single medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania, there are always two (2) experts disagreeing as to what the standard of care is.
If it is a close call, as to whether the standard of care was breached or not, then the natural jury bias will favor the defendants. Likewise, if both experts are credible, then the tie will always go to the defendant doctor.
Plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases can neutralize the jury bias if the error alleged is “sloppy”. I have picked numerous juries, and jurors have consistently used the word “sloppy” when saying that lawsuits are acceptable. The law does not use the word “sloppy” but the real world does. And plaintiffs who want to take their case to trial should have a “sloppy” mistake.
If you want serious money from conservative juries, it helps significantly if the jury can physically see a plaintiff’s pain throughout the trial.
This means that the plaintiff’s injuries need to be visible or the plaintiff needs to be deceased. Victims who have injuries which cannot easily beobserved are questioned and judged by skeptical juries.
Under the law, the issue of liability is separate from the issue of damages. Meaning, it should not matter if someone was seriously hurt or not.
In the real world, especially in Allegheny County and western Pennsylvania, juries consistently evaluate liability based upon the amount and seriousness of the harm they can visibly see.
At the end of the day, as much as we like to talk about accountability in lawsuits, the final issue to the jury is always money. Juries want to give money only to people they like. Also, juries are reluctant to award money to people that they do not sympathize with.
As soon as a plaintiff tells a jury,”it is not about the money”, it reemphasizes that all lawsuits are about money.
The truth is that the background, family, appearance and demeanor of a plaintiff have a direct impact on the amount of money awarded by a jury.
We are fortunate to have the health care systems and doctors that we do in Pittsburgh and throughout Pennsylvania.
However, the legal system in western Pennsylvania is not perfect. There is a medical malpractice bias. Plaintiffs can help neutralize the jury bias by focusing on “sloppy” mistakes, serious injuries and connecting with the jury.
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