Most people are at least somewhat familiar with statutes of limitations. These are laws which indicate how much time you have to file a lawsuit before a claim will be barred. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for negligence claims is two (2) years. That means you generally only have two years from the date of an accident or injury to file a lawsuit. There are exceptions. For a minor, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of 18. In addition, under a legal doctrine known as the “discovery rule,” the statute of limitations may not begin to run until an injured person knows of the injury and knows or has reason to know that a particular person or entity may have been responsible for causing it. The statute of limitations may also be tolled or stopped by instances of fraud. Most people are not, however, familiar with statutes of repose.

Statutes of repose are similar to statutes of limitations. They provide a date or time frame by which a lawsuit must be filed. However, they are stricter than statutes of limitations. Once a statute of repose has expired, the legal cause of action actually ceases to exist. In Pennsylvania, there is a statute of repose applicable to medical malpractice actions. It is found in Section 513 of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (or “MCARE”) Act. It provides:

  1. Unless the claim relates to leaving a foreign object inside an individual’s body, no claim for medical malpractice may be filed after seven (7) years from the date of the alleged negligence.
  2. No claim for medical malpractice on behalf of a minor may be filed after seven (7) years from the date of the alleged negligence or after the minor reaches 20 years of age, whichever is later.
  3. A claim for wrongful death or survival (claims brought on behalf of a deceased person) must be filed within two (2) years of the deceased person’s death unless the cause of death was fraudulently concealed.

The above medical malpractice statute of repose operates concurrently with the applicable statute of limitations; any cause of action must filed within the time frames specified by both.

If you or a loved one has been injured, or if you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, do not wait to contact an attorney. Once the time periods set forth in the applicable statutes of repose and limitations have passed, the opportunity to seek compensation for yourself or your loved one will be lost.

Michael Ksiazek is a member of Stark & Stark’s Yardley, PA office, concentrating in Accident & Personal Injury Law. For more information, please contact Mr. Ksiazek.