Does the statute of limitations bar my surgical malpractice claim in Pennsylvania?


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Statute of limitations issues, especially in medical or surgical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania, are often very complex. Determining whether a medical negligence claim is barred by the statute of limitations in PA almost always requires a legal consultation from a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer. Given the time constraints, it is important to seek legal help right away.

As a general rule, in Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for surgical malpractice is two years from the date the patient either knew or should have known of the error or mistake. This is Pennsylvania’s “discovery rule” at play which is an important exception to the general 2 year statute of limitations.

For many surgery patients with potential medical malpractice claims, it is difficult to determine exactly when they should have known of the doctor or surgeon’s error. Factors such as persistence of symptoms, presence of unusual symptoms, and the surgeon’s explanations are important in determining when the clock started ticking and whether the case is barred by the statute of limitations.

Related Legal Article: Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law – The Statute of Limitations in Surgical Error Cases

For example, the family of a patient who underwent surgery at a hospital in Philadelphia wants to know whether they have a valid surgical malpractice case. During the surgical procedure, the surgeon accidentally cut part of the intestine and failed to notice the error. The patient was sutured and moved to the recovery unit. Hours later, the patient developed sepsis and died. Nearly two years later, the family seeks help from a medical malpractice lawyer, and the statute of limitations is an issue.

Here, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death action probably began ticking on the date of death. However, if family members learned about the surgical error weeks or months later, the statute of limitations clock may actually start ticking when the family members actually knew about the error, or when they should have known about the error. In a nutshell, the circumstances must explain the family members’ lack of knowledge of the mistake.

Statute of limitations issues require much more intensive review of the facts and timeline of events. Therefore, it is crucial to have the case evaluated by a knowledgeable surgical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

To submit your case for review by our Pennsylvania and New Jersey medical malpractice and surgical error lawyers, call (866) 641-0806. Our lawyers are available for a free, no obligation legal consultation, and can obtain special admission in other states, such as New York or Delaware, on a case by case basis.

**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

Last updated: April 8, 2015