How Long Do I Have to Sue for Medical Malpractice?

Your state's statute of limitations sets the amount of time you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, but there are a few legal issues that may affect when the clock starts "ticking".

If you think you have a medical malpractice case against a doctor or other health care provider, be aware that every state has enacted a law (called a statute of limitations) that limits the amount of time you have to go to court and file a lawsuit.

What Happens Once The Time Limit Has Passed?

What happens if you try to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in your state’s civil court system after the statute of limitations “window” has closed? Your case will almost certainly be thrown out of court as being “time-barred” under the statute, and you’ll lose your legal right to get a civil remedy (meaning, compensation in the form of money damages) for any harm you suffered as a result of the alleged medical malpractice.

So, it’s crucial to understand and abide by the medical malpractice statute of limitations in your state, as it applies to your case.

How Long Do You Have?

Every state’s deadline is different, but most range from two to four years, with outliers at either end - here are the statutes for each state. For example, in a state that sets a two-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases (such as Georgia and Texas), you must file any medical malpractice lawsuit within two years of the injury or other harm that resulted from the malpractice. But as with most laws, there are exceptions and intricacies that could have a big impact on your case.

When Does the Clock Start "Ticking"?

Most states have the basic statute of limitations deadline, but also carve out exceptions that apply to when the malpractice is actually “discovered” (or when it could have reasonably been discovered), and then set an absolute deadline.

Let’s take Florida as an example. In Florida, you must start a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years of discovering the injury (or when you should reasonably have discovered the injury) or, at the latest, four years from when the malpractice occurred. In other words, even if you couldn’t have discovered the injury within four years, the case will be thrown out if you sue the health care provider more than four years after the injury occurred.

Still more exceptions exist when the injured patient is a minor, or when the defendant’s fraud or misrepresentation concealed the existence of the malpractice. It’s important to check the current version of your state’s laws, or discuss your case with a medical malpractice attorney to make sure you preserve your right to take your case to court.

To read more about the intricacies of this issue, see The Time Limit to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit.

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