What Is the Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice Claims?

We will all need a medical professional at some point in our lives. When we need a doctor, we want to know that they are dependable and we will leave their care better off than when we arrived. Unfortunately, there are times when medical professionals fail their patients. When that happens, injured patients have a legal remedy through a medical malpractice claim.

Although a medical malpractice claim is a legal action to recover compensation for your injuries, you must file your claim within the time the law allows. The time you have depends on the statute of limitations under state law.

Knowing the statute of limitations and when it runs for your claim can protect your access to recovery. If you miss the statute of limitations, you may be permanently barred from recovering compensation for your injuries. Therefore, if you believe you have a medical malpractice case, it is important to consult with a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your claim is filed within the statute of limitations.

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What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice, or medical negligence, happens when a medical provider fails to uphold the normal standards and practices of other professionals in the field, and those actions cause injury. Medical malpractice is a negligence claim. Anyone with a potential medical malpractice case must prove each of the following elements for a successful claim.

Duty

Medical providers owe patients a duty of care. The responsibility of care requires doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to act reasonably and like other similar providers will in similar circumstances. Medical professionals who treat you in a doctor’s office, emergency room, or hospital have a duty of reasonable care to you.

Breach

A breach of duty happens when the person or entity that owed you a duty of care fails to comply with their obligations. Examples of medical professionals breaching their duty include misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, failing to administer medication, giving the wrong medications, failure to supervise a patient who is a fall risk, etc. Anytime a medical professional fails to act reasonably, a patient may face grave harm.

Cause

The medical professional’s negligence must cause an injured person harm. This element can be challenging to prove, particularly if there is a long period between the injury and the case filing.

Damages

Any medical malpractice victim must prove they suffered damages to win their case. For example, you must show you acquired more medical bills to treat your injury, lost wages, or suffered pain and suffering.

How Common Are Medical Malpractice Cases?

Unfortunately, medical error is far too common across the United States. Medical errors are so common that they are the third-leading cause of death in the country and account for ten percent of American deaths annually. According to a Johns Hopkins study, medical errors cause 250,000 deaths yearly.

Common Types of Medical Errors

Various types of medical errors can lead to an injury or illness getting worse or even death. Any negligence by a medical professional may qualify as malpractice if it causes harm. Here are some of the most common types of medical malpractice that lead to patient injuries.

Diagnostic Mistakes

Getting the wrong diagnosis can lead to delays in treatment. A delay in treatment can keep a patient from receiving life-saving care. In certain circumstances, the error is not addressed in time, and the patient dies before receiving the proper diagnosis.

Surgical Errors

Surgical errors happen in hospitals and can occur in rehabilitation centers. Surgical errors can include a doctor operating on the wrong site, amputating the incorrect limb, removing the wrong organ, and even operating on the wrong person.

Labor and Delivery Mistakes

Doctors and nurses in labor and delivery are responsible for caring for the mother and baby. The mother and baby must be cared for throughout the pregnancy, during delivery, and after the baby is born. Mothers and babies require special care to avoid complications. The outcomes can be tragic if the labor and delivery team are negligent.

Medication Errors

Medication errors can happen in hospitals or pharmacies. Doctors are responsible for prescribing the correct amount of medication, and pharmacists are responsible for delivering the proper amount of medication to the customer. The incorrect amount of medication can cause a patient to experience complications, including death.

Anesthesia Mistakes

Anesthesia is a powerful drug. Administration of anesthesia requires a trained physician because the risks for complications can be significant. Patients who receive too much anesthesia before surgery can suffer brain damage, leading to permanent disability.

Failure to Obtain Informed Consent

Doctors and other medical professionals must obtain informed consent from each patient before starting treatment. Failure to fully explain a treatment plan or procedure to a patient is negligent. Obtaining informed consent is important because it allows patients to keep autonomy over their bodies. If a patient does not understand the risks and benefits of a treatment plan or procedure, they cannot decide whether the treatment is right for them or if they want to risk their well-being.

What Is the Statute of Limitations?

A statute of limitations is a deadline set by law that requires an injured person to settle an accident claim or file a lawsuit within a specified period. If you have a medical malpractice claim, you must begin litigation before the statute runs, or you risk dismissing your case and losing your right to sue and recover damages.

The purpose of having a statute of limitations is to encourage potential plaintiffs to move swiftly, use due diligence in recovering compensation for the harm they’ve suffered, and prevent potential defendants from losing business while waiting for a civil lawsuit to begin. Further, a defendant should not have to worry about facing a possible lawsuit from a specific patient for the indefinite future. When the deadline passes, the threat of legal action is over.

What Is the Discovery Rule?

There is usually no exception to missing a statute of limitations; however, the discovery rule may apply to medical malpractice lawsuits. The time to initiate litigation usually begins the day an accident happens. However, medical malpractice victims might not even discover they have preventable injuries until after the statute of limitations expires. The discovery rule alleviates this issue.

Under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations does not begin until the injured person discovers the injury or a reasonable amount of time passes wherein the person should have discovered the harm.

Do not rely on the discovery rule or assume it applies if you believe you have a negligence claim against a medical provider. The parameters of the discovery rule are not unlimited. Depending on the state where the negligence happened, you may have a limited amount of time to settle a claim or file a lawsuit despite when the harm is discovered. You should speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as you suspect you may have suffered an injury.

Statute of Limitations By State

State laws set statutes of limitations, and these deadlines vary widely across the United States. Some states have a statute of limitations that applies to all types of personal injury claims, including medical malpractice. Others have different deadlines for medical malpractice cases than for other injury claims, such as from a car accident.

Your medical malpractice claim will be subject to the statute of limitation in the state where your injuries happened. For example, if you live in Georgia, but traveled to Florida for superior cancer treatment and care, the Florida statute of limitations will apply.

In some situations involving multistate medical care, it can be confusing knowing which law applies. The discovery rule and other possible exceptions can complicate matters even further.

Always allow a medical malpractice attorney in your state to review your situation and determine the deadlines that apply to your case. When patients make their own assumptions about the time they have, it can lead to a loss of their rights.

Statutes of limitations for medical malpractice claims range from one to five years across the U.S. Some examples of state laws are below.

Once again, never simply rely on reading the statute – always seek a legal evaluation of your options.

  • Washington = Three years
  • Florida = Two years
  • Georgia = Two years
  • California = One year after the discovery; three years after the incident
  • Kentucky = One year
  • Maryland = Three years after the discovery; five years after the incident
  • New York = Two and a half years
  • Oregon = Two years

What Are My Legal Options After a Medical Mistake?

A medical malpractice claim is a legal cause of action. When patients get hurt due to the negligence of medical providers, the patient may be entitled to compensation. To receive compensation for your injuries, you must file a claim with the insurance company or file a lawsuit in court. An attorney can help you with both these options and help you decide which is best for you.

Insurance Claims

Most negligence cases start with negotiations with the medical provider or facility’s insurance company. Depending on your state, you might need to first provide notice to the medical provider that you plan to file a claim before taking action.

Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, meaning their concerns are about the bottom line. To increase their profitability, insurance adjusters often give injured people lowball offers. Unrepresented accident victims tend to fall victim to this tactic because they are inexperienced with civil litigation. A savvy attorney can help you negotiate with the insurance company and work towards getting the money you need to recover fully.

Insurers that provide coverage for medical professionals know how to defend against liability for patient injuries. They might fight negligence claims tooth and nail, asserting that the mistake did not fall below the standard of care. Your claim can involve complex legal standards and arguments, so you need the right attorney handling the process for you.

Sometimes, your medical malpractice attorney can negotiate a favorable settlement offer that covers your past and future losses for your medical injury. In this case, you can accept the offer (with your lawyer’s counsel), receive a check, and the case is over.

Filing a Lawsuit

Not every insurance claim results in a fair settlement offer. Your attorney might present piles of persuasive evidence of your injuries, and the insurance adjuster might continue to present offers that are far lower than what you deserve. In this situation, your lawyer can escalate the matter by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in civil court. The statute of limitations applies to this filing.

Filing a lawsuit is highly complex. You must follow many technical rules throughout litigation to prevent a case dismissal or other hiccups. No injury victim should try to navigate this process alone, especially while dealing with the aftermath of a medical injury. Always rely on your attorney’s legal experience and allow them to handle the litigation process for you.

Medical malpractice lawsuits might settle during pretrial litigation or they might end up in court. Either way, your attorney will fight for the full compensation you need and deserve.

Potential Defendants in Medical Malpractice Cases

When a medical mistake happens, there are many potential defendants. If you are hurt due to an error, your attorney can help you find all potentially responsible parties.

Potential defendants in a medical malpractice claim include:

  • Chiropractors
  • Pharmacists
  • Doctors
  • Psychologists
  • Nurses and nurse’s aides
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Emergency room personnel
  • Physical therapists

Why Do You Need to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Immediately?

Patients should take steps to file a medical malpractice lawsuit quickly after an accident because acting quickly gives them the best chance of preserving as much evidence as possible.

Prompt action after a medical error can protect evidence, including:

  • Witness testimony
  • Medical records
  • Medical bills
  • Ability to prove causation

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney in Your Area

Tatiana Boohoff, Lawyer for Medical Malpractice Cases near Tampa. 
Tatiana Boohoff, Medical Malpractice Attorney in Tampa 

If you have an injury or suspect your injury was caused by a medical mistake, you need a lawyer immediately. There is no need to attempt a settlement or pursue a lawsuit on your own.

Your attorney will be in your corner, ensuring you get what you deserve after an injury. Contact a medical malpractice attorney in your area immediately after an accident to discuss your claim.

Request A Free Consultation Today!


Boohoff Law P.A. – Tampa Office

829 W Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd,
Tampa, FL 33603
Phone: (813) 725-5606

March 3, 2023
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