Last updated: November 18, 2015 | Published: July 4, 2012
The statute of limitations is one of the most important issues in any medical malpractice lawsuit in Pennsylvania. This is because many cases of medical negligence are not recognized, let alone filed, within the usual 2 year statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania medical malpractice cases, the 2 year clock starts ticking on the date the negligent act occurred. However, patients who may suspect something is wrong often tend to give doctors the benefit of the doubt, and often believe what a doctor says about an unusual symptom or pain the patient has been experiencing.
Many patients with valid surgical malpractice cases in PA state that after a surgical procedure, they report a new or unusual symptom to their surgeon, who says nothing about it or brushes it off. Many times, the patient will see other doctors within the same practice and those doctors will say that everything looks normal. This often results in the patient learning many months, if not years later, that the original surgeon committed negligence.
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Cases – The Discovery Rule
Pennsylvania, like most states, has adopted what is known as the “discovery rule.” It is an exception to the general 2 year statute of limitations which applies in most personal injury cases.
When applying the discovery rule, the clock begins ticking not on the date of the alleged negligent action, but the date the plaintiff learns of an injury and the cause of that injury. So, in situations where the connection between the injury and the doctor or surgeon’s conduct is not clear, the discovery rule could operate to toll or stall the statute of limitations until the patient discovers or reasonably should discover the injury and its cause.
The important issue is explaining why the injured patient could not, despite exercising reasonable diligence, know the cause of the injury. Fine v. Checcio (Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 2005). In addition, simply losing confidence in the doctor or surgeon is not enough, in and of itself, to stop the statute of limitations clock. Caro v. Glah (Pennsylvania Superior Court, 2004).
Patients who suspect medical malpractice by a doctor or surgeon in Pennsylvania should seek legal advice as soon as possible to discuss the specifics of their case. Statute of limitations issues are very fact intensive and require analysis by a medical malpractice lawyer in Pennsylvania.
For more information, contact our Pennsylvania and New Jersey medical malpractice and surgical error lawyers. Click To Call.
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