Medical Malpractice & The Discovery of Harm Rule
Understanding Medical MalpracticeIf you’ve suffered damages due to the actions of a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional, you have the legal right to bring a medical malpractice case for your injuries. One of the most important things to know about bringing a medical malpractice suit is that there is a specific time limit that you have to file a case, or else forfeit your rights. This is known as the Statute of Limitations. However, there is a legal doctrine that can help extend this time limit. Here is a short guide to the Discovery Rule and the Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania.
Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania
As stated above, the Statute of Limitations is the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit before you are barred from doing so. According to Pennsylvania law, you have two years to file a medical malpractice suit in a civil court. The general rule is that the time limit begins to run on the date of the procedure that caused the injuries. However, this is not always the case. There is a very important and distinct exception to this rule that can help patients recover for their injuries. This is known as the Discovery Rule.
The Discovery Rule
In many instances, a patient may not be aware that complications after a medical procedure are a result of a professional’s mistake or lack of proper care. They are therefore unaware that they have a potential medical malpractice claim. The Discovery Rule helps these potential plaintiffs by extending the filing deadline. Instead of starting on the day of the medical procedure, the clock legally begins to run at the time that the patient discovered that a medical malpractice case was necessary. For example, a patient has an operation in June, and does not start experiencing pain or other symptoms due to problems with the procedure until December. If for some reason the person is not able to file a suit until October two years later, they would be able to extend the Statute of Limitations as long as they can provide evidence to back up the Discovery Rule exception.
This is contingent, however, on whether the lack of knowledge was reasonable or not. If a court decides that a patient should’ve known of the medical malpractice based on their injuries, aftercare, and other factors, they may deny the extension. But as long as there is no reason that the patient should’ve known about the complications until later, they can still use the Rule to help protect their legal rights.
In addition, there is another law that applies to these cases to be aware of. For cases arising after March 2002, Pennsylvania law states that a patient has 7 years to file suit, Discovery Rule or not. That means if the injury is discovered more than 7 years after the date of the procedure, a patient is barred from filing suit.
Seek Legal Help!
This is only one factor in a complicated set of medical malpractice laws. Due to the restrictions that Pennsylvania places on patients, it is imperative to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible to make sure your legal rights are preserved. If you are injured due to negligent medical practices, you are entitled to damages. Hiring an attorney as soon as you can after the injury occurs will make sure that you get the justice you deserve.
Contact a Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Case Today!
Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The medical malpractice attorneys at Berger and Lagnese are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, Beaver, Uniontown, Greensburg, New Castle and the surrounding areas. Call us today at 412-471-4300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant Street Suite 720, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.