A: Many patients in Pennsylvania who suspect that their doctor made a mistake or error often find that the doctor gives vague answers or no answers at all when asked about a potential mistake or error. Therefore, patients often seek second opinions. However, even doctors who give a “second opinion” may be vague. The reality is that there is a fair amount of stonewalling in the medical profession. The main reason this occurs is that doctors within a given community tend to protect each other. This can be extremely frustrating for a patient who is suffering due to the negligence of a medical professional such as a surgeon.
Therefore, the only way to get answers is to seek legal advice and quickly. This is important for two reasons. First, the statute of limitations may bar the claim. The statute of limitations acts like a stopwatch. You must get your lawsuit filed in time. There are certain factors which can stall the clock, but they don’t apply in every case. Statute of limitations issues are often very complex because they depend on a whole host of factors, such as: the status of the injured party (patient, family members, etc.) and the nature of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
In general, in Pennsylvania injury and accident cases, the statute of limitations is 2 years from the date of the injury. However, in medical or surgical malpractice cases, a special rule known as the “discovery rule” may stall the clock. Instead of starting the clock on the date the doctor made the mistake, the clock may start ticking two years from the date the patient knew or should have known of the error or harm. Other factors like whether the patient was a minor when the error occurred or whether the patient died as a result of the error also affect the statute of limitations analysis.
Second, there is a special legal hurdle in all medical malpractice cases filed in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania law requires that all medical malpractice lawsuits be reviewed by a medical expert who reviews the medical records and forms an opinion that the doctor at issue made an error. Then, after the lawsuit is filed, the patient’s medical malpractice lawyer must file a Certificate of Merit which affirms that a medical expert has reviewed the case and found that the claims have merit, i.e., there is a viable medical negligence case.
Complying with Pennsylvania’s Certificate of Merit requirement in medical malpractice lawsuits often requires additional time, including the time to locate and hire the correct expert, have the expert review the records and then consult with the expert about the facts of the case. Depending on the case, multiple experts may be needed. For instance, in a surgical error case resulting in an infection, both a surgical expert as well as an infectious disease expert may be needed.
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.
More from our PA Medical Malpractice Law Library:
- Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice – What to Do if You Suspect Medical Negligence (February 25, 2015) What should you do if you suspect your doctor was negligent? Because of the high costs involved in pursuing medical mistake cases in PA, you must speak to a lawyer to get a free case review.
- Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Cases – Was the Doctor Negligent? (February 23, 2015) Medical malpractice law in Philadelphia cases: was the doctor negligent? Our Phila, PA medical malpractice lawyer takes you through the analysis and what’s involved.
**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: March 10, 2015