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What Are Statutes of Limitations in Malpractice Cases?

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If you’ve ever been involved in a malpractice case, you know that it can be a difficult process to prove negligence on the part of your doctor or another medical professional. This is why you need an experienced medical malpractice lawyer on your side. In all personal injury cases, the statute of limitations varies between states and covers a variety of different things. For example, some states acknowledge stress and mental illness as legitimate personal injury, while others do not. This can occur in situations such as an emotionally and mentally taxing environment. Some states allow you to file a claim within a wide or narrow time frame depending on their laws. That’s why it’s always important to learn more about the malpractice laws of your state and what can be claimed and what cannot. Most states, however, follow the same general guidelines when it comes to the statute of limitations in malpractice cases.

Standard Deadline

Each state has its own, defined standard deadline for how long you can wait to file a claim after malpractice occurred. If you wait too long to file, you may no longer be eligible to take legal action to receive compensation for the harm you endured. This period of time can be anywhere from two years to six years, depending on the state in which you reside or where you received the treatment. Do your research on the statutes of limitations by state and see how long you have until you can no longer take legal action. If your state, for example, has a statute of limitations that is three years, you will be unable to pursue a legal case against your doctor or medical professional after that amount of time.

Discovery Rule

The discovery rule is seen as an exception to the standard deadline set by your state. This rule is standard no matter what state you reside in, however, it may be slightly different across the country. The reason for this exception is that many individuals don’t know they have a medical malpractice suit on their hands until well after that statute of limitations has expired. This rule ensures that the time of discovery is paramount in determining how long the individual has to take legal action. Typically, the clock will start running on the statute of limitations once the individual is made aware that there was an issue that caused them harm, or when they discover it themselves and start noticing adverse side effects from whatever harm was caused. For example, in a state such as California, if you find that an object was left inside your body during surgery, such as a surgical tool, you will have a year to file a claim against your doctor once the object is found. If the object isn’t found until decades after your surgery, the claim will still be legitimate, as the clock begins when you become aware of the error.

Age limits

Another piece to consider in the medical malpractice puzzle is the age of the person who experienced the harm. Each state has different laws regarding how these cases are handled when the victim is a minor. 

Absolute deadline

Finally, many states (but not all) have an absolute deadline on the amount of time that can pass until legal action can no longer be taken in a medical malpractice case. To reiterate, some states do not have this type of deadline, and legal action can be taken within a time frame after the harm comes to light. However, some states have a deadline, often about a decade, from the initial harm to file a lawsuit. This is implemented in the interest of the medical provider, so legal action can’t be taken decades later for an ailment that may not have even been his or her fault, but grew to become an issue over time due to the negligence of the patient. However, this can also be harmful to those patients who were unaware of how serious their condition was until the deadline has passed. This is why it’s extremely important to stay aware of your treatment and well informed about what you do with your body and what goes into it. If you believe your doctor may have neglected to inform you about vital parts of your treatment or you think you’ve been misdiagnosed, a second opinion from a credible medical professional is always encouraged.

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