Missouri Medical Malpractice Laws & Statute of Limitations

Missouri's statute of limitations filing deadline for medical malpractice lawsuits, caps on damages in Missouri medical malpractice cases, and more.

By , Master of Science in Library and Information Science, Long Island University
Updated by David Goguen, J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law

If you've been injured by substandard medical care in Missouri, you might be thinking of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. If so, it helps to understand the basics of the process before you decide to proceed to court. This article covers some key points of Missouri's medical malpractice laws, including:

  • the deadlines you must meet when filing the lawsuit in court
  • the state's requirement to obtain and file an affidavit from a qualified health care provider, and
  • the statutory limits on the amount of compensation you can receive if your claim succeeds.

The Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Missouri

Missouri, like all states, has laws called "statutes of limitations" that set limits on the amount of time a plaintiff (the person suing) has to file different types of cases in the civil court system. In Missouri, an injured person typically has two years from the date on which the medical negligence occurred to file a medical malpractice claim.

"Discovery"-Related Exceptions to the Missouri Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

In Missouri, if the patient doesn't discover the occurrence of the malpractice or the resulting injury right away, and if they couldn't have reasonably been expected to make that discovery, the starting of the statute of limitations "clock" might be delayed. This includes situations where:

  • the medical malpractice case is based on a foreign object left in the patient's body, or
  • when the case is based on a health care provider's negligent failure to inform the patient of medical test results.

Missouri's "Statute of Repose" for Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Under what's called a "statute of repose," an injured patient is barred from filing a medical malpractice case more than ten years after the date the underlying medical error occurred—even if the patient couldn't have known about the injury at any point during those ten years.

When the Injured Patient Is a Minor in Missouri

Finally, Missouri has special rules for situations in which the injured patient is a minor younger than 18. In general, medical malpractice cases involving a minor child must be filed by the time the person reaches 20 years of age.

What Happens If I Miss the Filing Deadline?

No matter which deadline applies to your case, statutes of limitations are always strictly enforced. If you fail to get your lawsuit filed before the time limit expires, the court will almost certainly refuse to hear it.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 516.105 (2022).)

Missouri's Affidavit Requirement In Medical Malpractice Cases

Missouri medical malpractice laws require the plaintiff (or the plaintiff's attorney) to file an affidavit with the court at the beginning of the lawsuit, in order to demonstrate that the claim has merit. (This document is called a "certificate of merit" in some states.) The affidavit must declare that the plaintiff has obtained the written opinion of "a legally qualified health care provider," who has stated that:

  • the health care provider being sued (the defendant) failed to provide the level of care that "a reasonably prudent and careful health care provider would have under similar circumstances," and
  • that this failure directly caused or contributed to the injuries described in the lawsuit.

Who Is a "Legally Qualified" Health Care Provider for Purposes of a Missouri Medical Malpractice Affidavit?

Under Missouri law, a health care provider is "legally qualified" to provide an opinion in support of the plaintiff's case if:

  • they're licensed in the same profession as the defendant, and
  • they're either actively practicing or are within five years of retirement from actively practicing in substantially the same specialty as the defendant.

What Is the Filing Deadline for a Medical Malpractice Affidavit In Missouri?

The affidavit must be filed with the court within 90 days of the filing of a medical malpractice complaint (the document that starts the lawsuit), unless the court finds that "good cause" exists to extend the deadline for a period of no more than an additional 90 days. If you fail to file the affidavit on time, the court can dismiss your case.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 538.225 (2022).)

Caps on Damages in Missouri Medical Malpractice Cases

As part of broader tort-reform efforts, many states place limits (or "caps") on the compensation you can receive if your medical malpractice case succeeds. Missouri caps a medical malpractice plaintiff's non-economic damages, which includes compensation for:

  • pain and suffering
  • mental anguish
  • disfigurement and scarring
  • loss of life's enjoyments, and
  • other losses that are difficult to measure with a precise dollar amount.

Missouri has a standard cap for noneconomic damages, and a separate one for malpractice cases involving "catastrophic injury," which under Missouri law means a medical error that results in:

  • quadriplegia or paraplegia
  • the loss of two or more limbs
  • significant and permanent cognitive impairment
  • irreversible failure of a major organ, or
  • significant loss of vision.

What's the Current Version of Missouri's Medical Malpractice Damages Cap?

By law, both of these figures are bumped up by 1.7% each year. Here's a look at the two caps for recent and future years:

  • 2022: $450,098 standard cap and $787,671 "catastrophic injury" cap
  • 2023: $457,749 and $801,061
  • 2024: $465,531 and $814,679
  • 2025: $473,445 and $828,529
  • 2026: $481,494 and $842,614
  • 2027: $489,679 and $856,938
  • 2028: $498,003 and $871,506
  • 2029: $506,470 and $886,322
  • 2030: $515,080 and $901,389

You can always find the latest details on these caps on the website of the Missouri Department of Insurance.

(Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 538.205 and 538.210 (2022).)

No Cap on Economic Damages In Missouri Medical Malpractice Cases

It's important to note that Missouri has no cap on "economic" damages in medical malpractice cases. That includes lost wages, lost earning capacity, and the costs of past or future medical treatment related to the malpractice. There are no limits on compensation for these kinds of losses in a Missouri medical malpractice case.

Getting Help With a Missouri Medical Malpractice Case

If you've been harmed by a health care provider's mistake in Missouri, it might make sense to discuss your situation with a legal professional, and get a clear sense of your options. If you've read this far, you've probably figured out that these kinds of cases are complex from almost every angle. Having an experienced legal professional on your side is crucial if you want to get a fair result. Learn more about finding the right medical malpractice lawyer for you and your case.

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