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Pennsylvania Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Cases
Recent developments in Pennsylvania statute of limitations law for medical malpractice cases have resulted in two statute of limitations timelines which apply to medical malpractice or hospital malpractice lawsuits, including wrongful death and survival actions. Statute of limitations laws put a time limit on a person’s right to file a lawsuit. Once that time limit expires, a party is barred from filing a lawsuit.
The article below is provided by our medical malpractice lawyers and is current as of September 13, 2021. Any changes to Pennsylvania medical malpractice law after this date may not be reflected below.
Time is Limited – Act Now to Preserve Your Family’s Legal Rights
Too often in medical or hospital malpractice cases in Pennsylvania, a patient or family member contacts our law office when it’s too late to take any legal action. That’s why it’s important that patients and their families get legal help as soon as they suspect something is amiss with their medical treatment.
When death occurs due to stroke, heart attack or some other immediate condition and a doctor or hospital was involved in treatment of that condition, surviving family members should always seek an opinion from an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.
Our Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyers accept cases throughout Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, Delaware County, Montgomery County, etc. We’ve successfully brought medical malpractice cases against hospitals, doctors, nursing homes and other medical facilities. Contact us now or call (610) 825-0500.
Statute of Limitations Law for Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania
There are basically two time limits (or statute of limitations periods) that apply in medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania. The first time period starts when the medical malpractice occurred, i.e., the date of the misdiagnosis or failure to treat. The second time period starts when the patient dies, i.e., the date of the patient’s death. So which period applies? The answer depends on whether the patient died, which in turn determines the type of lawsuit being filed.
Amended Law Helps Patients File Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Claims, Effective January 1, 2023
As of January 1, 2023, a change to Pennsylvania's Rules of Civil Procedure will give patients the ability to choose where to file their medical malpractice lawsuits. Previously, patients were required to file medical malpractice claims in the county where the negligent conduct occurred. In January, cases may be filed in any county where 1. the defendant can be served (i.e., does business, has an office, etc.), 2. the negligent conduct took place, or 3. a relevant transaction or event took place.
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Wrongful Death & Survival Actions for Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania – 2 Years from Date of Death
When a patient dies due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, the patient’s family can file a wrongful death action and survival action. Both actions are filed after the death of a loved one. In these situations, the clock starts ticking on the date of the patient’s death.
A 2017 Pennsylvania Supreme Court case, Dubose v. Quinlan, held that Pennsylvania’s usual 2 year statute of limitations for personal injury actions doesn’t apply to wrongful death and survival actions for medical malpractice. Instead, Pennsylvania’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act applies to wrongful death or survival actions based on medical malpractice. Section 1303.513(d) of that Act provides:
Death or survival actions. — If the claim is brought under 42 Pa.C.S. § 8301 (relating to death action) or 8302 (relating to survival action), the action must be commenced within two years after the death in the absence of affirmative misrepresentation or fraudulent concealment of the cause of death.
For example, a patient who had a stroke is misdiagnosed at a hospital in Philadelphia. Instead of correctly diagnosing stroke, the patient is diagnosed with a migraine and sent home. Two days later, the patient suffers a massive brain hemorrhage and dies after being comatose for several months. Here, the statute of limitations period for both the wrongful death and survival actions would begin on the date the patient died, not the date of the misdiagnosis at the hospital.
Medical Malpractice – 2 Years from Date of Malpractice (Patient Survived)
If the patient survived the medical mistake/negligence, Pennsylvania’s usual 2 year statute of limitations law for personal injury actions applies, 42 Pa.C.S. § 5524(2). This statute differs from the statute discussed above in that the clock starts ticking on the date of the incident. In medical malpractice or hospital malpractice cases where the patient survives, the clock starts ticking on the date of the medical negligence.
Let’s apply this to the scenario above and change the facts. Instead of dying, the patient survives the massive brain hemorrhage, although there is serious, permanent damage. The patient would have to file their medical/hospital malpractice lawsuit within 2 years of the date of the initial hospital visit (when the stroke was misdiagnosed).
Medical Malpractice – 2 Years from Date of Malpractice or Date of Death
What happens if a patient receives medical treatment that is negligent, but doesn’t die from the malpractice but dies later due to another cause?
Using the same example, let’s say that the patient survived the brain hemorrhage but was killed 2 months later in a car accident caused by another driver. Does the statute of limitations clock start ticking on the date of the death or the date of the initial hospital visit?
According to the 2017 Dubose case and the 2018 Superior Court case, Bradley v. Thomas Jefferson Health System, the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act’s 2 year statute of limitations applies, i.e., 2 years from the date of death, not 2 years from the date of the negligent act.
So, the patient’s surviving family members would have 2 years from the date of the car accident/death to file a survival action against the hospital for failing to properly diagnose the stroke. There wouldn’t be any wrongful death action because there’s no valid claim that the misdiagnosis led to the car accident.
It’s important to note that statute of limitations issues, laws and caselaw are always subject to change. It’s crucial to have a statute of limitations issue in a medical or hospital malpractice case evaluated by an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Contact our Pennsylvania medical malpractice lawyers for a free consultation. (610) 825-0500
Last updated: January 27, 2023
We Accept Medical Malpractice Cases Against Hospitals in the Philadelphia Area
Cases Also Accepted Across Pennsylvania
Chestnut Hill Hospital
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Roxborough Memorial Hospital
Temple University Hospital
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Crozer-Chester Medical Center (Upland)
Delaware County Memorial Hospital (Drexel Hill, Upper Darby)
Springfield Hospital (Springfield)
Taylor Hospital (Ridley)
Abington Hospital (Abington, Lansdale)
Bryn Mawr Hospital (Bryn Mawr)
Einstein Medical (East Norriton, Elkins Park)
Holy Redeemer Hospital (Meadowbrook)
Lankenau Hospital (Wynnewood)
Suburban Community Hospital (Norristown)
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Phila., West Chester, East Norriton, Meadowbrook, Doylestown, Langhorne, Sellersville, etc.)
St. Christopher's Hospital for Children
Shriner's Hospitals for Children
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