Statutes of limitations are laws passed by legislative bodies that set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated. Regarding medical malpractice lawsuits, specifically, the deadline ranges from two to six years depending on the state in which the case takes place. Find the statute of limitations for medical malpractice in your state here.
The Discovery Rule
Another component to the statute of limitations rule in medical malpractice cases is the discovery rule. The discovery rule is an exception to the standard deadlines (given by state in the link in above paragraph). The purpose of the rule is to give victims the right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit after the standard statute of limitations expired, when they were not aware they even had a potential claim. Only patients who truly did not know and could not reasonably have figured out their doctor’s negligence have the right to use the discovery rule. Just as the statute of limitations is different in each state, so is the extension granted by the discovery rule. In some states the discover rule can extend the statute for only a year or two, but in others it can extend the statute for many years.
“Reasonable and Sufficient Notice”
As stated above, in order for the discovery rule to be applicable, the patient must not have known or reasonably figured out their doctor’s negligence. This means that if the patient was given any reason to believe their original doctor or surgeon was negligent, most likely from another medical consultation, at that point the clock starts ticking. A test or x-ray, for example, that would explicitly prove negligence is not necessary to be deemed “reasonable” notice.
If you have questions regarding your medical malpractice case or need help determining whether you have a case, contact the experienced lawyers at the Cochran Firm today.