Even though medical professionals must take countless classes and undergo years of training, they still make mistakes and medical malpractice is all too common. If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, you may be eligible to file a claim; however, you must file your claim within the Pennsylvania medical malpractice statute of limitations or risk the law barring you from recovering compensation.
For help filing a claim, call a medical malpractice attorney from Cordisco & Saile LLC today: 215-486-8196.
How long is Pennsylvania’s medical malpractice statute of limitations?
According to Merriam-Webster online, a statute of limitations “assign[s] a certain time after which rights cannot be enforced by legal action, or offenses cannot be punished.”
In other words, each type of claim has a ticking clock. If the clock runs out before you file suit, you will forever lose your ability to recover compensation in regards to that claim.
According to 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524(2), the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim in Pennsylvania is two years. This statute typically begins to run from the date the injury occurs.
For example, on January 10, 2016, you go in to have surgery on your left leg. Your doctor is negligent and performs the surgery on your right leg instead. You are able to file a claim to recover compensation for any damages you incurred from his negligence, but you must do so by January 10, 2018. Any claim attempts after this date will receive a dismissal.
Are there exceptions to the Pennsylvania statute of limitations?
The medical malpractice statute of limitations is a strict doctrine with non-negotiable time frames. However, three exceptions may toll the statute of limitations: (1) the discovery rule, (2) fraudulent concealment, (3) victim age. Tolling refers to temporarily stopping the statute of limitations from running.
1. Discovery Rule
The discovery rule acts to stop the statute of limitations from running until the plaintiff knows of the existence of an injury or its cause. Essentially, time does not run until you discover your injury (or should have reasonably known about the injury).
For example, you have surgery on January 11, 2015. During the procedure, the surgeon leaves a surgical sponge in your body. You do not experience anything out of the ordinary until three years later when the sponge finally creates complications.
Under the strict medical malpractice statute of limitations, you would be unable to file your claim at this point. However, under the discovery rule, if you did not know of the existence of this injury until three years later, then the statute does not begin to run until you discover the injury. Therefore, the discovery rule would allow you to still bring your claim even though the statute of limitations has passed.
2. Fraudulent Concealment
The second exception to the statute of limitations is fraudulent concealment. This doctrine stops the statute of limitations from running if the defendant fraudulently conceals facts that would put a reasonable plaintiff on notice that an injury had occurred. It is important to note that fraud can include the defendant’s unintentional deception as well as intentional conduct.
To further illustrate this point, let us consider the following example: Doctor A makes a mistake during a surgery performed on Patient B. He conceals his acts and tells Patient B that the persistent pain in her leg is a normal side effect of the surgery.
If Patient B obtains her medical records three years later and realizes that this pain is not a normal side effect of the surgery, she may still be eligible to file a claim even though the statute of limitations has run out.
3. Victim is a Minor
The statute of limitations also tolls is the medical malpractice victim is a minor; minors have until two years after their 18th birthday to file a claim. For example, if a doctor makes an error while completing a 13-year-old’s tonsillectomy, the victim has until his 20th birthday to file a claim
What is the statute of repose and how does it affect my claim?
The statute of repose is the absolute deadline for a medical malpractice case. This means that, regardless of whether the statute tolls, a victim cannot file a claim past the expiration of the statute of repose.
Pursuant to 40 Pa.C.S. § 1303.513, the state of Pennsylvania bars most cases against a medical professional after seven years from the date of the malpractice.
Though seven years is the general rule, exceptions still exist for injuries caused by foreign objects, injuries suffered by minors, and death or survival actions.
The statute of repose does not apply at all to injuries caused by foreign objects left unintentionally in a patient’s body. The victim could discover the foreign object eight years later and still be eligible to file the claim.
Additionally, injuries suffered by minors have either a seven-year statute of repose or two years after the minor turns 20, whichever comes later, e.g., if the malpractice victim was 14 years old when the malpractice occurred, he would have until his 21st birthday to file a claim.
Personal representatives must bring survival actions or claims for wrongful death within two years.
Contact a PA Medical Malpractice Attorney for Help with Your Case
The Pennsylvania medical malpractice statute of limitations is strict; get started on your claim today. If you or a loved one suffered injury at the hands of negligent medical professional, call the medical malpractice attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC today. Let us represent your family during this difficult time.
We will do everything in our power to get the compensation you and your family need and deserve. Contact us at 215-486-8196.