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What is the Time Limitation for Pursuing a Malpractice Claim for Care Received in the ER?

Posted on April 1, 2015

Medical negligence cases are complex and time-consuming to evaluate. If you suspect you or a loved one may have suffered an injury due to negligence or wrongful conduct committed by healthcare professionals, it is in your best interest to contact a Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney immediately.

Extensive investigation is undertaken to determine that:

  1. the injury was preventable, and
  2. the result of medical malpractice

If you delay in consulting with an attorney about an injury—after the medical malpractice incident—the time allotted for a Philadelphia malpractice attorney to investigate it may be insufficient. Many Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers are unwilling to undertake a meaningful review of a medical negligence case based on the soon-to-expire statute of limitations.

Although there are certain exceptions, with respect to claims on behalf of adults in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the action must be instituted no later than two years from the date the treatment was received. It does not change or matter if the care in the emergency department was followed by a lengthy inpatient hospitalization. Pennsylvania and New Jersey have different rules applicable to actions for personal injury instituted on behalf of minors, but the general rule for adults is two years unless it falls into the category of one of the exceptions, most of which involve an injury that was not and could not have been discovered at the time the care was received by the patient.

What can become confusing for patients and their families is when the negligent care occurs on more than one occasion over a period of days, weeks or months before the patient dies. To properly protect your legal rights, you should consult with an attorney experienced in emergency room negligence cases as soon as you suspect there are grounds for malpractice or serious doubt as to whether you or your family member received appropriate care. If the care resulted in the patient’s death, the statute of limitations for the wrongful death claim is two years from the date of death even if the patient was a minor, but claims on behalf of the estate (survival action) have to be filed within two years of the initial injury so that they are not waived.

In other words, it may seem like you have plenty of time to see a lawyer, you should not allow that to lull you into complacency. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Many Philadelphia malpractice attorneys hired by patients accept cases on a contingency fee basis, so there is no charge for time spent investigating a case, even if it turns out to be without merit. Always ask the lawyer so there are no surprises.

We are here for any questions you have on this post or a particular legal situation you would like to discuss.