How long do I have to sue for medical malpractice in Pennsylvania?
Under Pennsylvania law, you have two years within which to file a claim for medical malpractice damages. However, due to the nature of medical malpractice claims, certain circumstances might affect this timeframe.
When does the two-year time limit start in a medical malpractice case?When the two-year limit starts depends on quite a few factors. If, for example, you are filing a medical malpractice claim for a wrong site surgery, the limit starts the date of the surgery.
However, because some types of medical malpractice are not easily discoverable at the time of the injury, an exception known as the discovery rule comes into play.
What is the discovery rule?The discovery rule allows the plaintiff to extend the statute of limitations so that it does not start the time limit from running until they have discovered or have reasonably discovered the injury. For example, if you had hernia surgery in 2008 and during a routine x-ray in 2015 your doctor discovers the surgeon left a sponge in your abdominal cavity from that surgery, you have two years from the 2015 date in which to file your claim.
It is important that as soon as you suspect you were the victim of medical negligence that you contact a legal professional. Medical malpractice cases take substantial evidence to prove gross negligence. Your attorney needs time to collect and review your medical records and to consult with other medical experts to identify whether or not your doctor operated outside the scope of reasonable care and caused your injury.
Note: Under the statute of repose, you must file a claim under the discovery rule within seven years of the date of the malpractice. This does not apply to objects left inside the body.
Are there exceptions for minors?As with most cases, the rules are different regarding plaintiffs who are minors. If a patient under the age of 18 is a victim of medical malpractice, the tolling of the statute of limitations cannot begin until she is 18 or has discovered the injury. After the victim's 18th birthday, she has two years to file.
Parents or guardians can bring the claim at any point when the child is a minor.
The statute of repose also applies to minors. If your child suffered an injury due to malpractice when she was 14 years old, she must file a claim by her 21st birthday.
What if I think my doctor is covering up the malpractice years after the error?Another exception to the tolling (running) of the statute of limitations is "fraudulent concealment." This exception occurs when your doctor knows that he or his team made an error in your care but fails to notify you about it. When your doctor fails to alert you to his mistake, it could cause you to relax your vigilance or deviate from asking questions about your care.
Lawmakers made this exception to stop defendants from claiming the statute of limitations had tolled, even though it was their fraud or concealment that allowed the time to pass without discovering the injury.