How Long Do You Have to Sue a Doctor?

Posted in Medical Malpractice on November 26, 2018

A medical malpractice lawsuit is functionally a personal injury claim against a medical professional for failure to meet an acceptable standard of care, resulting in harm to a patient. Although there are many similarities between medical malpractice lawsuits and personal injury claims, there are distinct and important differences as well. It’s crucial for anyone considering a medical malpractice lawsuit to understand the guidelines for filing these claims and how state laws come into play. Read on to learn more or consider speaking with a skilled Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer.

Time Limits for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim

Filing a civil action almost always requires meeting the state’s statute of limitations for filing a claim of that type. Each state has unique laws and different statutes for personal injury claims, product liability claims, and other civil actions. If the plaintiff fails to file a formal complaint within the appropriate statute of limitations, he or she may lose any chance of recovery. The defendant can simply file a motion to dismiss for the plaintiff’s failure to meet the required statute and the judge will toss out the case.

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is two years, starting on the date the malpractice occurred. However, this may not always be the case. Pennsylvania law recognizes the fact that some patients may not discover the harm resulting from medical malpractice for months or even years after the malpractice occurred, potentially delaying treatment and sustaining serious medical problems.

Pennsylvania law “tolls” or delays the statute of limitations in these cases and the statute begins on the date the plaintiff discovers the harm in question or should have discovered it with reasonable diligence.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

Pennsylvania also places an absolute limit of seven years on medical malpractice claims. This means a plaintiff has seven years from the date malpractice occurs to take legal action, regardless of when the plaintiff discovers the results of the malpractice. The only exception to this rule would be cases involving medical devices left inside patients’ bodies during surgery.

It’s also possible to toll the statute of limitations if the person harmed by medical malpractice was an infant or minor at the time the malpractice occurred. In these situations, the plaintiff’s statute of limitations would go into effect on the plaintiff’s 18th birthday when he or she is a legal adult able to pursue a lawsuit on his or her own behalf. Pennsylvania law may also toll the statute of limitations if a doctor must continue treating a patient for an illness or injury caused by malpractice.

Take Legal Action Quickly

A medical malpractice lawsuit can be extraordinarily complex. There are also special rules in place that a plaintiff must satisfy before he or she may pursue legal actions. For example, Pennsylvania requires a plaintiff with a medical malpractice claim to submit to a medical board review of the claim. If the board’s initial investigation indicates that the plaintiff’s claim has merit, the board will issue a Certificate of Merit that effectively allows the plaintiff to file a formal complaint and initiate the lawsuit process.

Anyone with reason to believe they have grounds for medical malpractice claims should find reliable legal counsel as soon as possible to start the legal process. A medical malpractice lawsuit is likely to involve significant economic and non-economic damages, require testimony from expert witnesses, and undergo a medical board examination. The plaintiff should work as quickly as possible to avoid missing the statute of limitations.

If you or a loved one experienced any type of medical malpractice but aren’t sure whether your claim will meet the required statute of limitations, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.