What is the Pennsylvania medical malpractice statute of limitations?

By Ben Gobel on December 9, 2022
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Medical malpractice cases occur when medical professionals deviate from the professional standard of care in providing medical treatment and therefore cause injury to a patient. Every state in the United States has specific laws and procedures for filing civil lawsuits.  In particular, every state has a limitations deadline for when a suit can be filed.  If the civil claim is not filed before the limitations period ends, then the person is barred from filing the suit.  If you are an injured patient, you must file a medical malpractice claim against your healthcare provider within the time allowed by Pennsylvania law.  

The Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Statutes of Limitations

Medical malpractice occurs when a licensed professional deviates from the acceptable professional standard. This can happen by injury, misdiagnosis, inaccurate treatment, or any other medical or hospital negligence. The law states that all Pennsylvania medical malpractice claims must be filed within two years from the date when the victim discovered the error.  Thus, the time limit does not start running when the alleged malpractice occurs.  Rather, under the discovery rule, the time starts running when the medical error was either discovered or should have been discovered by the injured patient.  If you believe you have been a victim of medical or hospital negligence in Pennsylvania, you must act quickly to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

Why are there deadlines for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania state legislature is responsible for passing laws and has determined that it is necessary to have a deadline for people to file medical malpractice lawsuits.  The purpose of the Pennsylvania statute of limitations is to ensure fairness for all parties to a suit.  As such, Pennsylvania’s statute restricts a person to filing a medical malpractice claim within two years from the date when the alleged malpractice was discovered.  

A statute of limitations applies to all civil actions, including medical malpractice cases, to ensure fairness and protect people from false allegations.  For instance, if there were no time limits for filing a lawsuit, suppose a person decides to sue for an accident that occurred decades ago?  Bringing a lawsuit at this late stage would not be fair to the parties involved. After all this time, many witnesses’ memories could be unreliable, and much of the evidence, such as medical records, may be lost or discarded. As such, a statute of limitations would prevent such a delayed suit to protect the integrity of the legal system.  Every civil lawsuit or criminal charge has a time limit, except for the worst felonies, such as murder, which does not have a statute of limitations.

The Statute of Repose  

The Pennsylvania medical malpractice statute of repose further instructs that a victim must file a claim within a time period of seven years. While the discovery rule allows a person to have two years from the time they are made aware of the alleged malpractice, the statute of repose limits the time to seven years from the date the medical malpractice occurred.  Thus, a person could be barred from filing a malpractice case if they don’t discover it within the seven-year statutory period.  

Exceptions to the Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations in a Medical Malpractice Case

Pennsylvania’s medical malpractice statute also allows for some exceptions to their statute of limitations and the statute of repose.  The exceptions are for very specific certain situations, however.  The law provides some exceptions for situations involving minors, foreign objects, and fraudulent concealment. 

Victims Who Were Under the Age of 18

Unfortunately, pediatric malpractice claims are also prevalent, where the great majority of pediatric malpractice claims are caused by misdiagnosis.  The malpractice statute of limitations applies differently to minor victims.  Minors (defined under Pennsylvania law as persons under the age of 18) have two years after their 18th birthday to file a claim for an injury they suffered when they suffered from a pediatric malpractice claim.  This exception is very fair, as a minor is not yet of legal age of consent to file a legal action on their behalf.  As such, the two-year statute does not start until the patient reaches the age of maturity.

Fraudulent Concealment

Another exception to the statute of limitations is in a case of fraudulent concealment. Fraudulent concealment occurs when a patient may have observed some symptoms or troubles, but their medical care provider assures them that they did not have an illness or injury.  In other words, the patient was not able to discover the malpractice due to the fraudulent concealment of the licensed professional.  This exception provides protection to the discovery rule to a patient that was duped by their doctor, despite their reasonable diligence.  

Foreign Objects  

The Pennsylvania statute of repose’s seven-year time limit does not apply to injuries caused by foreign objects that were negligently left within a patient’s body during a medical procedure.  Foreign objects, such as medical sponges, are sometimes unintentionally left inside a patient during surgery.  The Pennsylvania statute of repose discovery exception is fair, as an unknowing patient may not discover a foreign object in their body within the seven-year time period.  However, it is obvious that a foreign object left inside a patient’s body would only occur as a result of negligence, so it is only fair that victim would get to file a claim, regardless of when it was discovered.  

Does Your Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Fall Under An Exception?

It may be tricky to determine if your medical malpractice case falls into a statute of limitations or statute of repose exception.  Therefore, it is important to not delay and ask a qualified medical malpractice attorney any questions you may have about your situation.  Different deadlines or state law could apply to your unique circumstances.  The rules are complicated for someone unfamiliar with the law.  Contact the top rated personal injury attorneys at Ogg, Murphy & Perkosky if you believe that you may have a case that falls within any medical malpractice statute of limitations exceptions. Reach out to our certified specialists before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.    

What to Do if You are a Victim of Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania

If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical negligence or malpractice, do not delay seeking help.  First, make sure to get evaluated by qualified medical personnel and receive the healthcare you need for your injury.  In addition, make sure to gather evidence of your injury to prepare proof for your malpractice claim.  Medical malpractice cases need to be supported by sufficient evidence to be successful.   It is also extremely important to reach out to a lawyer.  A Pennsylvania personal injury attorney with experience in lawsuits based on medical negligence will offer valuable insight. They can evaluate your case and determine the best course of action to take for you to receive financial compensation.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Attorneys

The Pennsylvania medical malpractice firm of Ogg, Murphy, & Perkosky handles cases involving doctor negligence, hospital malpractice, and wrongful death or survival actions.  We understand    Pennsylvania medical malpractice laws and are well-versed in dealing with the statute of limitations. Our firm is designed to take care of our clients during a traumatic time. We understand that injured victims are hurting and in emotional distress.  We diligently work to make our clients’ medical malpractice cases as stress-free as possible. Contact us for a free consultation and speak with a top medical malpractice attorney today.