Medical malpractice can cause significant harm to patients and may indicate that a doctor is unfit to practice. Fortunately, state laws in the United States exist to address any such cases. However, there is a certain time period–the statute of limitations–within which the aggrieved party must file the medical malpractice case.
The following article explains what medical malpractice is, what statutes of limitations are, and how they apply to medical malpractice cases.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice constitutes acts of omission or negligence by a healthcare provider that cause a patient’s injury or death. Medical malpractice includes acts such as:
- Misreading laboratory test results
- Providing a misdiagnosis
- Recommending premature discharge
- Administering wrong dosage of medication
- Making errors in surgery
- Prescribing unnecessary surgery
- Leaving any foreign objects, such as gauze, inside a patient during surgery
- Not providing adequate aftercare
Patients may file civil cases against their doctors or other healthcare providers for medical malpractice. In order to receive compensation, the patient must report the malpractice and prove that he was owed a duty by the healthcare provider who violated the standard of care, leading to harm or injury.
Keep in mind that it’s important to find a lawyer who has experience with the exact type of negligence you’ve faced. For example, if you or a loved one has been abused in a nursing home, you’ll want to hire a skilled nursing home abuse attorney.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a law that defines a time period during which a civil or criminal lawsuit can be initiated against a defendant. Such statutes are applied to protect defendants from unfair trials. For instance, after a certain time has passed, defendants may no longer remember key facts or possess important evidence to defend themselves.
A statute of limitations applies to nearly all civil and most criminal cases, excluding serious criminal cases such as murder and sexual assault. The period under a statute of limitations may begin either when an offense was discovered or when the alleged offense took place.
Does a Statute of Limitations Apply to Medical Malpractice Cases?
Yes, a statute of limitations applies to medical malpractice cases in the United States. Medical malpractice cases are treated as civil cases and the statute of limitations differs from state to state.
Statute of Limitations by State
All fifty states have statutes of limitations defining when a patient may file a civil claim for medical malpractice. Most states also define the time for minors to file such claims.
Of the fifty states, thirty-one states set the statute of limitations at two years from the date of injury or discovery of the injury. Most states allow patients to file civil claims against medical malpractice within one, two, or three years of the grievance or discovery of the injury. In addition, twenty-two states prescribe special provisions for foreign objects used in surgeries, diagnosis, or examinations including sponges and medical instruments that may be left in the patient’s body.
Below are a few examples of statutes of limitations for medical malpractice for different states.
Patients may take legal action within three years after the injury or one year of discovery, whichever comes first. Where minors (under age six) are involved, a civil lawsuit against medical malpractice may be commenced within three years or until they attain the age of eight, whichever comes first.
Patients may file a claim within two and a half years of the alleged offense.
Minors: Minors may file a medical malpractice claim within ten years of becoming an adult.
Foreign objects: Legal action due to a foreign object can be commenced within a year of finding the object or of discovering facts that may lead to finding the object.
The state of Pennsylvania allows the filing of a civil claim against medical malpractice within seven years of the alleged offense.
Minors: Minors may file a claim within seven years of the alleged offense or until they attain the age of twenty years, whichever comes later.
Foreign objects: There is no time limit on filing a civil claim for a foreign object.
Be sure to contact an experienced malpractice attorney, such as those at Strom Law, if you’re looking for further guidance regarding a statute of limitations. If you’re interested in learning how much you can sue a hospital for negligence, be sure to take a look at our recent article.