For those who suffer an injury due to the negligence or mistakes of others, particularly those in the medical field, there is the question of what their legal rights are and how long they have to exercise them. First, let’s address the question of what medical malpractice is, and then we will cover the statute of limitations for medical malpractice suits.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
According to the Free Dictionary.com legal dictionary, medical malpractice is the “improper, unskilled, or negligent treatment of a patient by a physician, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional.”
What plays a prominent part in defining liability is the concept of negligence, which makes this type of litigation a part of general tort law. However, medical malpractice can be a controversial issue. For physicians, the large number of malpractice suits and large damage awards, they claim, have negatively impacted insurance rates, making it expensive to run a practice.
For tort lawyers, these lawsuits serve to police the medical profession, while compensating victims for the medical negligence and the consequences of that negligence.
What Does a Victim Need to Prove?
There are four key elements that a victim must prove in order to succeed in a medical malpractice case. These are:
- The physician had a duty of care.
- The physician violated that duty, falling below the applicable standard of care.
- There was a compensable injury.
- The injury was caused in fact, or proximately caused, by the violation of the standard of care.
If you believe that you have been injured due to the negligence of a medical professional, it is important to consult with an attorney to determine if you have evidence of these four key elements. However, these types of medical malpractice lawsuits are limited in most states in terms of how long you have from the date of the physician’s negligence before the statute of limitations bars any claim.
In addition, the statute of limitations may be extended under limited circumstances. Often known as the “discovery rule”, under this rule, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin to run until the victim should have reasonably known that they were injured. Below, we will discuss the specific limits of three states on the east coast and how the limits differ from state to state.
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
In Pennsylvania, there is a two-year limitation on filing a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice. According to Pennsylvania 42 Pa. C.S. § 5524(2): “The following actions and proceedings must be commenced within two years…An action to recover damages for injuries to the person or for the death of an individual caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another.”
Essentially, this limitation gives you only two years from the time of the medical malpractice, or from the time of reasonable discovery, to file a claim for damages. Once those two years have passed, your options for redress are barred.
New York Medical Malpractice Claims
For the state of New York, on the other hand, the statute of limitations begins from the date of the actual malpractice, not the date of the discovery. Thus, people have two and half years from the date the harm occurred to take legal action. However, if the harm occurred to a patient in a municipally-owned hospital, then the amount of time is reduced even further, down to just 15 months.
For those who are injured in New York, this short timeframe makes it more difficult for victims to obtain redress and compensation for a medical injury. Therefore, it is important to consider and obtain legal assistance as soon as you are aware of a medical injury, to determine if you are still within the bounds of the statute of limitations for this state.
New Jersey Medical Malpractice
According to the statutes of New Jersey, “every action at law for an injury to the person caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of any person within this state shall be commended within two years next after the cause of any such action shall have accrued.” However, New Jersey makes an exception in the case of minors, with the statute of limitations being impacted by the age of the minor.
Getting Proper Legal Counsel
If you have been injured due to a medical error, it is important to seek counsel to understand your options and if you are within the statute of limitations for your state. We are available to discuss your case and help you to determine the options available. Contact us for a free consultation.
As one of the most successful litigation practices in the Philadelphia area, Marrone Law Firm, LLC provides vigorous, effective representation in matters ranging from personal injury and medical malpractice to real estate and criminal law.