In 2003, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court approved a new rule requiring attorneys to obtain a ‘certificate of merit’ from a medical professional establishing that the medical work in the case fell outside acceptable standards. What this means is that you are not allowed to proceed with a medical malpractice case in Pennsylvania unless you have obtained a written letter from a doctor in the same or substantially similar field opining that your expert believes there was a deviation from the acceptable standard of care.
A lawyer failing to obtain the certificate cannot bring a case to trial. The rule allows attorneys to file their ‘certificate of merits’ within 60 days of filing their initial complaint. Most certificate are filed attached to the complaints since lawyers often will not accept a medical malpractice case unless a doctor has already agreed to write the ‘certificate of merit.’
If you or your lawyer fail to file the ‘certificate’ within 60 days, the case can be dismissed. If you are within the statute of limitations (typically 2 years in Pennsylvania for medical malpractice claims), then you can refile your action if you are later able to find an expert. If not, the case can be lost forever.
Filing your certificate of merit in Pennsylvania is crucial in proceeding with a medical malpractice case.