What Is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice in PA?
All states, including Pennsylvania, have statutes of limitations for different types of legal actions. These laws restrict the time during which legal cases can be filed. When people do not file civil complaints within the limitations period, they lose their rights to recover damages for their losses. However, statutes of limitations do have some exceptions, so determining the deadline for filing is not always straightforward. People who have questions about the deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit should speak with the attorneys at Raynes & Lawn.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania?
Statutes of limitations provide a limited period during which a claim can be filed. Different types of cases have different deadlines. Like many other states, Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations specific to medical malpractice lawsuits. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is found in 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524. Under this statute, the deadline for filing a medical malpractice claim is two years following the date when the defendant committed the medically negligent act that injured the patient. However, there is an exception to this general rule for people who did not discover and reasonably could not have discovered the injury until a later date. In that situation, the statute of limitations will be tolled until the date of the discovery or the date that the negligence should reasonably have been discovered potentially subject to another law called a statute of repose.
Statute of Repose and Supreme Court Decision
Pennsylvania has a statute of repose found at 40 Pa.C.S. § 1303.513 for medical malpractice cases. Under this statute, a cause of action cannot be filed for medical malpractice more than seven years from the date of the medically negligent action. This would prevent people who discover they were injured by medical negligence from filing lawsuits when the medically negligent act occurred more than seven years prior. However, there is an exception to the statute of repose when a foreign object is left inside a person’s body and is only later discovered.
However, in 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the statute of repose for medical malpractice cases was unconstitutional in Yanakos v. UPMC, 218 A.3d 1214 (2019). This case involved malpractice that allegedly occurred in 2003 when the plaintiff donated a portion of his liver to his mother. He underwent tests that showed he was suffering from liver problems. Yanakos argued that this should have resulted in the doctor informing him he could not donate a part of his liver. Yanakos and his mother allegedly did not learn about the medical negligence until 2014 when both were diagnosed with advanced liver disease.
The Court of Common Pleas found that Yanakos’s lawsuit was barred by the statute of repose. However, upon its review, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that the seven-year statute of repose was unconstitutional.
Tolling for Minors
The Statute of limitations is also tolled for minors who were injured in medical malpractice incidents before reaching the age of majority. Under this exception, the statute of limitations will not start to run until the minor reaches age 18. However, many cases involving injured minors are filed on their behalf by their parents or guardians acting in their interests.
Effect of Filing a Lawsuit Beyond the Deadline
Some people try to file medical malpractice lawsuits after the deadline has passed. However, if you do so, the defendant will likely file a motion to dismiss based on your case being filed too late. The court will also likely grant the motion to dismiss. This would mean that you could no longer pursue legal remedies for your losses. It is critical for you to talk to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as you learn that your injuries were likely caused by medical negligence. Getting help early can also provide more time for your attorney to obtain your medical records and review them with the help of a medical expert. If you wait until right before the deadline to speak to an attorney, he or she might not have enough time to investigate your case and prepare the documents needed to file your claim. As a result, you might have trouble finding an attorney to help with a claim when you wait until right before the end of the limitations period.
Certificate of Merit in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Under 231 Pa. Code Rule § 1042.3, a plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit in Pennsylvania is required to submit a certificate of merit with the court upon filing the civil complaint. This is a signed statement that the case has been evaluated by a licensed professional and that there is a reason to believe that the health care provider’s actions fell below the accepted standard of care.
This certification must be filed with the complaint or no later than 60 days after the complaint has been filed. The expert who reviews your claim must be a licensed professional who has enough training, education, experience, and knowledge to competently testify about the provider’s substandard treatment and how it did not meet the expected standard of care. This requirement also makes it important to retain an attorney early so that he or she has enough time to review the evidence and work with an expert to determine whether negligence has likely occurred.
Get Help from a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice cases can be very complex. If you believe that your doctor or another health care provider negligently caused your injuries, it is critical for you to talk to an experienced malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. While two years might seem like a long time, obtaining all of the medical records, finding an expert to review them, and drafting the case all take a long time. It is best to speak with a lawyer as soon as you learn that your injuries likely resulted from negligence. Call Raynes & Lawn today to schedule a free consultation at 1-800-535-1797.
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