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3 Things to Know about Statutes of Limitations in Malpractice Cases

The issue of medical malpractice is complex. Medical malpractice or liability may have occurred if a medical practitioner causes injury or death to a patient through omission or an act of negligence. 

Believing you or a member of your family is a victim of a medical treatment gone wrong can be intimidating as well as frightening. However, if you or a loved one faces that situation, there are things you should know about statutes of limitations when it comes to filing a lawsuit. Medical malpractice lawyers can guide you, but here are a few basics.

The Standard Deadline

How much time people have to file a medical malpractice suit varies from state to state. In fact, it can range from one to ten years, including limits based on when a problem is discovered.

There is a standard deadline that is different depending on where you live, usually from one to four years. It is vital to know what the timeline is for your state. Sometimes statutes of limitation may differ based on the type of injury that has taken place because each state establishes its own regulations.

Discovery Rule

The second aspect of medical malpractice lawsuits you should understand is what is known as the discovery rule. In other words, how long you have to pursue a lawsuit may be different based on when the injury was discovered.

For example, a case where a sponge or surgical implement is left behind following surgery. The patient may know nothing about it until it begins to cause problems, which could be years later. In many states, the statute of limitations begins once the mistake is discovered, not when it occurred. In North Carolina, for example, individuals have ten years to pursue litigation in cases where an object is left inside a patient, such as during a surgery.

More than twenty states have exceptions built into their statutes of limitations regarding foreign objects left inside a patient.

Exceptions for Minors

Another piece of the statute of limitations in malpractice cases is the exceptions that apply to minors. Again, how the law is applied varies from state to state. Still, in general, the limitations may be broader when applied to minors.

For example, in Virginia, if a child is under eight years of age when an incident occurs, the law allows the filing of a suit until the child's tenth birthday. Some states don't set limitations until after the child has reached the age of eighteen.

Experts say it is crucial to pay attention to the statutes of limitation where you reside because filing a lawsuit after the fact could potentially limit your ability to file any other type of civil suit. Many states set constraints on the amount of non-monetary losses you can receive. These would be losses based on such things as pain and suffering versus actual medical bills and lost income from an inability to perform your job. The best bet if you believe you are the victim of medical malpractice is to consult an attorney.