Medical Malpractice Limitations Statute in Pennsylvania
A Limitations Statute (generally referred to as a Statute of Limitations) is a law that limits the time period during which a particular type of legal action (lawsuit) can be filed. The Medical Malpractice Limitations Statute for medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania allows someone who has been injured or made ill by medical negligence to file a medical malpractice law suit at any time within 2 years of the date on which the negligence that caused the person’s injury or illness occurred.
Medical Malpractice Limitations Statute: Time Exceptions
This two-year time limitation can be extended under certain circumstances:
If the injured person was a Minor when the medical negligence occurred
If the person who was injured by medical malpractice was a minor (under the age of 18, in Pennsylvania) when the medical negligence that caused the person’s injury occurred, the Medical Malpractice Limitations Statute allows the injured person (plaintiff) to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible health care provider(s) at any time up to 2 years after the plaintiff’s 18th birthday.
As an example, if a 10-year-old child’s serious illness or disease was allowed to progress because a doctor negligently failed to diagnose the illness, the child’s right to file a legal action against the doctor would not be cut off until the child’s 20th birthday.
When the injury was not discovered or discoverable until after the initial two-year period had passed
This exception to the two-year rule is known as the Discovery Rule. Under the state’s Medical Malpractice Limitations Statute, if a person who was injured by medical malpractice could not have discovered (with the exercise of “reasonable diligence”) that he or she had been injured by medical negligence until after the two-year period had expired, the person may still be allowed to file a medical malpractice lawsuit within 2 years of the date on which the injury reasonably could have been discovered. This extra filing time is only available (under a separate statute, called the Statute of Repose) for 7 years after the medical negligence occurred.
One of the most commonly cited examples of medical malpractice that may allow for the extension of a patient’s filing deadline under the Discovery Rule is an injury caused by a medical instrument that was left in a patient’s body after surgery. A patient may not notice any ill effects from the “retained surgical instrument” until after the instrument has caused serious damage.
In such cases, the patient’s right to file a medical malpractice action may be extended until 2 years from the date on which the presence of the instrument reasonably could have been discovered—as long as this extension does not go beyond 7 years from the date the instrument was left in the patient’s body. For instance, if a doctor left a surgical instrument in a patient’s body in 2016 and the instrument was not discovered—or could not reasonably have been discovered—until 4 years later (in 2020), the patient may have until 2022 (2 years after the discovery—which, in this case, is less than 7 years after the medical negligence) to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. On the other hand, if the instrument is not discovered or reasonably discoverable until 2024 (more than 7 years after the medical negligence), the time period in which the patient may file a lawsuit will have expired.
If you have been diagnosed with an illness or other injury that you have reason to suspect may have been caused by medical malpractice, please contact our Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers to preserve your right to take legal action against the responsible parties under the Medical Malpractice Limitations Statute. For a free consultation about your case, contact Feldman & Pinto.