Skip to main content

How Long Do You Have to Sue for Medical Malpractice in PA?

How Long Do You Have to Sue for Medical Malpractice in PA?

There is a time limit to sue for medical malpractice in Pennsylvania. The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania is two (2) years.  However, that statute of limitations may be tolled (stopped) under certain circumstances.  For example, the statute of limitations will run two (2) years after a person knew or reasonably should have known of the relationship between the medical error and the harm. The statute of limitations after death is two (2) years, and the test for the statute of limitations to be tolled (or stopped) in a death case is different.  The statute of limitations for a federal tort claims act claim is also two (2) years, but again the tolling (stopping) rules are different.

This is a very complex area of the law, and Cliff Rieders wrote the leading text on medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, which deals with this, as well as other questions.

In addition to the statute of limitations, there are other laws you need to consider if you are wondering whether you can sue. Since medical malpractice law is so complicated and the time to file passes quickly, contacting an experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney makes sense if you even suspect you have a medical malpractice case.

If you or a family member has experienced injury or you lost a loved one due to medical malpractice from negligence, you may have the right to seek financial compensation. This compensation can include various forms of damages, both economic and non-economic. These include medical and hospital expenses (past, present, and future); costs related to rehabilitation; income loss, including potential future earnings; pain, emotional distress, loss of life’s joys; physical disfigurement; and, in the case of a spouse, the loss of companionship and partnership. The loss of damages is different in a death case as opposed to an injury matter.  Other relevant components may also apply. Handling your case competently and precisely ensures you receive the compensation you deserve.

The skilled and experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys at the Rieders Travis Law Firm have spent decades honing their skills and successfully representing Pennsylvania families who have suffered an injury or loss due to negligence and malpractice by medical professionals and hospitals. Our attorneys offer personal attention and loyalty to every client, aggressively fighting for their right to compensation.

In this blog post, we will answer the question “How long do you have to sue for medical malpractice in Pennsylvania?” We will also cover:

  • The Pennsylvania discovery rule
  • The requirements for malpractice in Pennsylvania
  • Whether a lawyer will sign a “Certificate of Merit”
  • How a medical malpractice lawyer can help you
  • Why you should choose skilled and experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorney Clifford A. Rieders to fight for you.

We offer a free telephone consultation to examine the facts of your case and determine how we can help, so do not delay. Contact us online or call our offices at (570) 323-8711 to set up your free and confidential consultation.

Pennsylvania Discovery Rule

According to the Pennsylvania discovery rule, the two-year period commences from the time that a person either knows or should know, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, the relationship between the medical care and the harm suffered.

The primary aim of the discovery rule is to exclude the duration during which the injured party reasonably remains unaware of their injury. This ensures that individuals who could not reasonably know about their claim are not disadvantaged compared to those with immediately apparent injuries.

However, it is crucial not to wait and assume that the “you knew or should have known” rule will not be applied. Many victims make this mistake.

In a medical malpractice case, the victim does not need to pinpoint the precise medical cause of the injury for the statute of limitations to begin. It starts running when the patient knows, or should know, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, that their medical treatment resulted in harm.

Keep in mind that the discovery rule is different in a death case and is different in certain statutory actions, such as Federal Tort Claims Act.  The Federal Tort Claims Act is increasingly coming into play because some state practitioners and facilities are considered, or, in the words of the law, are deemed, to be federal employees.  It sounds strange, but it is true.

Pennsylvania courts are quick in expecting the plaintiff to diligently gather information about the facts underlying a medical malpractice lawsuit in the state. While what might be considered a reasonable excuse in human terms could differ, it may not be viewed as such by a Pennsylvania court tasked with determining when the statute of limitations started.

The Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Case in Pennsylvania

To establish a case of medical negligence and malpractice, certain key elements must be demonstrated:

  1. A Doctor-Patient Relationship Existed: This entails formal engagement with the physician for your care, demonstrating that you officially sought their services. For instance, a casual exchange of advice at a social event does not warrant a lawsuit. Instead, evidence of formal hiring can be presented, such as medical insurance payments or documented medical records.
  2. The Medical Professional Displayed Negligence: A bad outcome does not automatically constitute malpractice; rather, it must be shown that the physician acted below the standard of care expected of that physician in like circumstances. It is essential to establish that the actions of the physician or medical professional led to harm and that a competent peer in the same scenario would have acted differently. This concept is known as the reasonable care and skill expected of a physician. Your legal representative must demonstrate that your physician deviated from the accepted medical standard of care, resulting in your injury.
  3. The Negligence Directly Caused an Injury: Malpractice cases often involve individuals already dealing with illness or injury, making it difficult to prove that the physician’s actions worsened the situation. Nonetheless, an attorney must establish factual cause between the physician’s negligence and the ensuing harm. For instance, if a patient had been battling cancer for an extended period and the physician neglected to provide a treatment that could have averted their demise, it must be demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence to the finder of fact that the patient’s passing was a result of the physician’s negligence in addressing the cancer.
  4. The Injury Resulted in Tangible Patient Damages: Even with evidence affirming the physician’s negligence and its role in causing the injury, it must also be substantiated that the patient suffered harm and damages. These may include physical distress, emotional suffering, additional medical expenses, loss of income or earning potential, or even loss of life.  This is not inclusive of all potential damages.

Will a Lawyer Sign a “Certificate of Merit”?

According to Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure1042.3, et seq., your attorney must be able to sign a “certificate of merit” based upon a statement from an appropriately licensed professional stating that this professional believes there is a reasonable probability that your health care provider’s actions “fell outside acceptable professional standards” and caused the harm you allege. This certificate must be filed along with or within 60 days of filing the initial complaint that starts the lawsuit. When vicarious liability or corporate claims are involved, there must also be a certificate of merit.  There need not be a certificate of merit, according to a recent case, in the Third Circuit, which includes Pennsylvania, when a matter is a federal case.  There can be federal cases not only under the Federal Tort Claims Act, but also when the patient and the defendant hospital or doctor are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy is in excess of $75,000.

How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help You?

For any medical malpractice case, time is of the essence, no matter what the circumstances. Having a skilled and knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer on your side is essential, especially since the laws are so complicated.

1. Case Evaluation and Analysis

An in-house evaluation will be performed by the office to determine if it is appropriate to consult outside physicians.  If it is necessary to consult outside physicians, the potential client will be informed of this.

2. Gathering and Preserving Evidence

Proving medical malpractice requires a strong collection of evidence. Attorneys have the experience and resources to obtain medical records, expert testimonies, and other vital documents necessary to build a compelling case.

3. Access to Expert Witnesses

Expert witnesses play a pivotal role in medical malpractice cases by providing professional opinions on the standard of care and whether it was breached. Attorneys have established networks of medical experts who may be available to testify in your case.

4. Negotiating with Insurance Companies

Dealing with insurance companies can be complex and intimidating. A skilled medical malpractice attorney will handle all communications with insurers, ensuring your rights are protected and you receive fair compensation.  In many cases, the State Insurance Fund, called Mcare, comes into play.

5. Negotiating Settlements

Many medical malpractice cases are resolved through settlements rather than going to trial. An experienced attorney will negotiate with the opposing party to obtain a good settlement.  Alternative dispute resolution, such as arbitration and mediation, may be an option.

6. Advocacy in Court

Should your case proceed to trial, a medical malpractice attorney will vigorously advocate for your rights in the courtroom. They will present compelling arguments, cross-examine witnesses, and handle all legal procedures on your behalf.

Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, the experienced Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys of Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters are familiar with the law and thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome and getting you the compensation you deserve.

About Clifford A. Rieders

Clifford A. Rieders is a Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. Rieders has won numerous awards and recognition from the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, and he received the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority recognition award.

Clifford A. Rieders was a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority and served on same for 15 years. Rieders was a Law Clerk in the federal court system for one of the country’s most well-known and longest-serving federal judges, the Honorable Malcolm Muir. Clifford has received the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award and the Milton D. Rosenberg Award from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers.

Rieders is on committees and organizations that write the law in many fields of practice. Clifford A. Rieders was involved in writing the Mcare Act, which governs medical liability actions in Pennsylvania. Clifford A. Rieders wrote the book on medical malpractice lawyers use in the state. Clifford teaches the subject of medical malpractice at seminars attended by the leading lawyers in the state. Clifford A. Rieders is recognized as an outstanding authority in the medical malpractice field.

Clifford has even testified before the legislature on medical malpractice laws. Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified specialist for Civil Trial and Civil Practice and Procedure, a cum laude graduate of New York University and Georgetown University Law Center. Rieders is admitted in Pennsylvania, New York State, the District of Columbia, and numerous federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court.

Rieders is a life member of the American Law Institute, which publishes recommended legal principles utilized throughout the United States. Clifford A. Rieders is the lawyer that other lawyers call for counsel and advice in the medical and hospital malpractice and pharmaceutical/vitamin supplement fields. Clifford A. Rieders does substantial work in multi-district litigation in connection with pharmaceutical products and medical devices.

Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania, offering free consultation on all personal injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

If you or your loved one has suffered from medical malpractice, the time to sue is now. Do not delay. If you have a claim, consult Rieders, Travis, Dohrmann, Mowrey, Humphrey & Waters. Contact us online or call (570) 323-8711 today.