Jun 112012

In cases of hospital and emergency room malpractice, Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations is two years from the date of the injury. However, in cases where the patient was unable to discover the abuse, the statute of limitations may be tolled. In such a situation, the statute would begin ticking once a patient knew or should have known that there was an error at the hospital or emergency room.

The classic example is when a surgery patient discovers that a surgical tool was left in their body years after the surgery. A more complex example is an open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) surgery where a fractured bone is not set back properly or a pin is not placed correctly. The patient might not discover that the orthopedic surgeon committed an error until many years after the original surgery. In these kinds of cases, the laws of Pennsylvania would probably allow the patient to bring a claim after the two year statute of limitations period.

In many cases of malpractice in an emergency room or hospital setting, whether a doctor at the hospital committed medical malpractice requires intensive review of the facts and timeline.

Most cases of hospital and emergency room errors involve failure to diagnose, medication mistakes, or misreading of test results. In these kinds of situations, the malpractice usually results in the patient’s death or at the least, severely worsened outcome.

There are two main factors which will determine when the statute of limitations begins ticking: what the hospital said about its treatment and the age and sophistication of the plaintiff.

For example, a woman who goes to the emergency room with symptoms of a stroke, but is diagnosed with a sinus infection, is released, and later dies would have a potential malpractice case against the hospital. Her family would then be able to pursue the claim.

What the deceased patient and her family were told about what happened at the initial emergency room visit will be crucial in determining when the statute begins ticking. The deceased patient and her family may be misled by the hospital into thinking that the stroke was not discoverable at the initial visit. This is not uncommon. Doctors tend to protect each other and those within the same practice or hospital may not be forthright about the full nature and extent of the malpractice.

In addition, the age and sophistication of the deceased plaintiff will be important as well. If the deceased patient was a nurse with 20 years of experience, a court may find that she should have realized the error before she died.

Each hospital and emergency room malpractice case is unique and requires extensive review to determine when the statute of limitations expires. It is important to have the case reviewed immediately by a knowledgeable and experienced Philadelphia, PA medical malpractice lawyer.

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Click here to read about additional Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey hospital medical malpractice case results.

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Published: June 11, 2012

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