What is the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

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Question:

What is the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Pennsylvania?

Answer:

First, for readers who aren’t fluent in the language of “legalese,” a statute of limitations is a state law that sets a limit on the amount of time you have to get a civil case started after you have suffered some type of loss or injury. In Pennsylvania, getting a medical malpractice case started means filing the initial complaint in civil court and, within 60 days, filing an affidavit of merit signed by an attorney who states that he or she has met with a qualified expert medical witness who has opined that medical malpractice was committed.

Like a lot of states, Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations that applies specifically to medical malpractice lawsuits. The Pennsylvania law says that an injured patient must file their claim within two years of the date on which the defendant health care provider committed the alleged medical malpractice. However, the “clock” for this two-year time period will be “tolled” (meaning it won’t run) until the plaintiff actually knows (or should know, in the eyes of the law) that they suffered an injury that was caused by the defendant’s malpractice.

The Pennsylvania law goes on to mandate that no medical malpractice lawsuit may be filed more than seven years from the date on which the underlying medical error was allegedly committed, regardless of whether the plaintiff knew or should have known that they were injured by the defendant’s wrongdoing. An exception to this larger seven year deadline is made for cases where a foreign object was left in the patient.  

Having read all of this, you may be wondering what happens if Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations deadline has passed, but you try to file your medical malpractice lawsuit anyway. It’s a safe bet that the doctor or health care facility you’re trying to sue will ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court will grant the request. If that happens, that will be the end of your lawsuit. That’s why it’s so important to understand exactly how the statute of limitations applies to your situation. Learn more about the Statute of Limitations in a Medical Malpractice Case.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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