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What is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice?

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Collen Clark Published by Collen Clark

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.

You might be contemplating bringing a medical malpractice claim if you sustained injuries that you believe were brought on by your doctor's gross negligence.

My experience as a medical malpractice attorney shows that a medical malpractice lawsuit can be complex. That is why plaintiffs must examine reams of medical records and professional opinions to support their claims. 

The relevant laws must also be understood, including the statute of limitations for medical malpractice. In this article, I will tell you all you need to know about the statute of limitations for medical negligence and malpractice.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • The injured party must demonstrate that the doctor had a duty to inform or warn the victim about the malpractice and its consequences.
  • Establishing negligence is essential to showing that medical malpractice occurred.
  • In most states, the categories determining the applicable statute of limitations are used to group civil legal claims in civil practice law. 

What is a Statute of Limitations?

A lawyer about to write on blank paper on a clipboardA "statute of limitations" is a legal provision that establishes a strict time frame of up to four years within which an injured party may bring a claim. The victim forfeits the right to bring a lawsuit if a claim is not made within this time frame [1]

This is an essential aspect of every case that must be considered before a lawsuit is filed. 

Medical malpractice cases frequently have shorter statutes of limitations than other personal injury cases, and additional requirements must be met before a patient can file a lawsuit. 

These requirements cover things like where the medical malpractice case is filed, what forms need to be filled out, and other things personal injury lawyers must go over with you. 

The following must be proven by a patient who claims medical malpractice:

  • The doctor owed a duty of medical care.
  • The doctor went against the accepted standard of care.
  • The patient's injuries were compensable, such as long-term loss of physical ability possibility or the possibility of future harm.
  • The improper behavior was directly responsible for future harm or death.

The Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Claims 

A doctor writing notes downIf the injured person can prove that the doctor had a continuing obligation to warn him about the malpractice and its consequences, that could be a way to get around the three-year time limit. 

In this situation, the state Supreme Court ruled that the doctor's failure to fulfill his ongoing obligation to warn the patient about the malpractice and its consequences tolled the passage of time and the right of repose.

In most states, the categories that determine the applicable statute of limitations are used to group civil legal claims in civil practice law.

These categories typically include claims for:

  • Personal injury
  • Property damage
  • Contracts
  • Defamation
  • Abuse
  • Fraud
  • Wrongful death
  • Medical malpractice

In cases of healthcare neglect, the applicable laws depend on where the illegal act occurred.

Various state laws determine the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases, but most jurisdictions follow the discovery rule. The patient must have discovered the claimable injury or illness for the statute of limitations to begin. 

Some jurisdictions resolve this frequent problem objectively by establishing a time limit that begins to run when the claimant receives a valid diagnosis from another licensed medical provider. 

"A person who believes he has been injured because of medical malpractice must initiate the lawsuit within three years of the act of malpractice even if he does not discover and could not have reasonably discovered the injury and its link to the alleged malpractice until more than three years have passed."
- George Coppolo, Chief Attorney

Other states adopt more arbitrary strategies by beginning the countdown when the patient's symptoms should have prompted them to seek further medical attention. That is why it is important to find personal injury lawyers who understand their jurisdiction and state law.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations 

A doctor talking to a patient while writing notes down

You may be able to file your medical malpractice claims following the three-year window of time in several situations, including:

  • Cases where injuries are not immediately apparent. The victim must make a claim no later than one year after the injury was discovered or should have been and no later than four years after a medical professional first caused the injury.
  • A medical professional such as surgeons or hospital staff may forget foreign objects into the body. A patient must submit a medical negligence claim within a year of the injury's discovery or the date it should have been discovered. After ten years have passed since the item was left in the body.
  • Minors. When a patient is injured, and under 18, it's critical to speak with an experienced attorney immediately. The law governing medical malpractice for minors is complex, and determining the proper statute of limitations depends on the minor's age, guardianship situation, and other legal considerations.

Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Minors

For medical malpractice claims, minors have a different statute of limitations than adults. The statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim involving a minor is three years following the minor's 18th birthday. 

In other words, it all begins on the person's 18th birthday, and a civil lawsuit for medical malpractice must be filed by the person's 21st birthday.

Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Wrongful Death

Unfortunately, many malpractice victims pass away due to medical mistakes or poor care they received. A wrongful death claim must be made within three years of the death of a loved one if a medical error was to blame.

Related Articles:


How Long Do Most Malpractice Cases Last?

Most malpractice cases last anywhere between two and five years on average to resolve in court, depending on several variables. Personal injury cases can drag on for two to four years before being resolved.

What Is the Average Settlement for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

The average settlement for medical malpractice cases differs depending on factors such as the nature and extent of the injury, whether a fatality occurred, the time and location of the incident, etc.

Are There Cases Where the Statute of Limitations May Run Longer than Three Years?

Yes, in special circumstances, the statute of limitations may run longer than three years. These circumstances can include waiting to file the lawsuit because of your state's rules, a judge's order in another case, or some other factor.

Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim

Suppose you think that medical malpractice occurred was made by your doctor or another medical professional that hurt you. In that case, you should speak to our team of medical malpractice lawyers in a consultation to listen to their free evaluation.

The attorney-client relationship privilege protects any sensitive or confidential information. Schmidt & Clark Law Firm team is ready to file your lawsuit, fight for your compensation, and help you get the justice you deserve.