In the US, 10 percent of deaths are due to medical errors. Even errors that don’t lead to death can lead to suffering for the victims. A medical malpractice lawsuit may be an option for some patients and their families.
But the time limit around when you can file a medical malpractice case is a bit complicated. Adding to this are medical malpractice statute of limitations exceptions. Let’s take a look at the standard statute of limitations and some common exceptions for medical errors.
Standard Statute of Limitations
The standard statute of limitations starts when the medical error occurs. Usually, a patient has two to six years to file a lawsuit. However, each state has its own laws surrounding the statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases.
Plus, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations in many states. It’s very important to figure out where you stand in your own state as you may lose your right to follow through on a medical malpractice case once your time limit is up.
The discovery rule, sometimes called the discovery of harm rule, is a major medical malpractice statute of limitations exception. The discovery of harm rule varies between states. It may add a year or two in some states but may add many more in others.
In some situations, the victim may not know there is a medical error or have any reason to suspect one until months or years later. The discovery rule takes this into account and extends the statute of limitations.
In order for this rule to apply, the victim needs to not have known they were harmed and should not have reasonably been expected to find out. The statute may change to start when the patient knew or had reasonable notice that they were harmed.
Some states do have additional caveats that must be met for the rule to apply. For example, a surgeon leaving a medical instrument in a patient’s body after surgery may trigger the discovery rule.
Additional Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations Exceptions
There may be additional exceptions to the statute of limitations depending on the state. A common one is if the victim is incapacitated or is a minor.
For example, in New Mexico, there is a specific exception if the victim was a child under the age of six. The child or their parent in these cases has until the child’s ninth birthday to file.
Since there are caveats to these exceptions and the discovery rule, it’s important to get knowledgeable legal guidance for your medical malpractice lawsuit.
The statute of limitations on a case puts a hard deadline on when a victim can still file a lawsuit. When combining these rules with medical malpractice statute of limitations exceptions, it can become necessary to discuss your individual case with an attorney.
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