How Long Do I Have To File A Lawsuit?
Most states have statutes of limitations that define the amount of time during which an individual can file a lawsuit claiming injury related to negligence or malpractice. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations on most medical malpractice or negligence claims is 2 years.
There are circumstances that affect or alter the limitation period for filing a lawsuit, including claims where the victim is a child or minor (Minors Tolling Statute) or when the injured party is unaware in spite of reasonable investigation that their injury was caused by malpractice or negligence (The Discovery Rule.)
Pennsylvania Minors Tolling Statute
If a child is injured by medical malpractice before the age of 18, the two-year statute of limitations does not begin to run until the child reaches the age of 18. Thus, a claim for damages related to an injury to a child can typically be filed any time before the individual reaches the age of 20 years. Learn more about the Minors Tolling Statute.
The Discovery Rule
The Discovery Rule may extend the amount of time in which you have to file a claim in cases of medical negligence or malpractice. If a person is unable despite reasonable diligence to learn that they are injured or that their injury may have been caused by the negligence of a health care provider, the Discovery Rule may apply.
For Example: A patient undergoes surgery and experiences discomfort after the surgery. They assume that this discomfort is simply part of the healing process. Years later it turns out that a sponge or other piece of surgical material was left inside of their body during the procedure, and this piece of material has caused traumatic damage to an organ. Depending on the amount of time that has passed, The Discovery Rule may allow for the recovery of damages, even if the two-year statute of limitations has already expired.
The Statute of Repose
In 2002, a piece of legislation called the MCARE Act was passed in Pennsylvania. The MCARE Act includes the Statute of Repose, which places a time limit on how long a victim has to file a claim in court even if the discovery rule would otherwise apply and extend the time permitted to file a lawsuit. For more information about MCARE & the PA Statute of Repose, click here.