If you have a rare or severe condition, the doctor or facilities you might need to save your life may not be down the street from your home or even in Pittsburgh or Allegheny County. You might have to travel to another part of the state to get the necessary treatment. Pennsylvania is more than 46,000 square miles in area, so it could be a long trip, often made several times. The inconvenience and expense of travel are worth it if the doctors there can cure you or control your symptoms.
A significant change in the venue rules
But if a doctor, nurse, hospital or other healthcare provider commits medical malpractice against you, the distance would complicate things — at least, it would have before September 2022. Before a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling from that month, malpractice victims had to sue in the county where the negligent treatment happened. This was not necessarily a big deal if the doctor or hospital was in your home county, but it could be a problem if they practice hundreds or thousands of miles away. Finding an attorney in an unfamiliar part of the commonwealth and traveling back and forth for meetings and court appearances is impossible for many busy professionals and parents.
Fortunately for malpractice victims, this is no longer necessary. The state Supreme Court ruled that as of Jan. 1, 2023, medical malpractice plaintiffs can file their lawsuits in the counties where they “regularly conduct business.” This ruling could encourage more victims to pursue compensation since they will be able to handle the case close to home.
Not yet a permanent rule
However, the court said it would reexamine the new policy in two years. So your time to sue in your own county could be limited. Given Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims, you should not wait too long to consult a malpractice attorney.