Doctors have a duty to care for you according to the best of their ability and current standards of medical care. While mistakes can happen, preventable medical errors can have terrible consequences for patients. Medical malpractice can cause life-changing injuries and disabilities, affecting injured individuals for the rest of their lives.
If you want to file a lawsuit against a healthcare practitioner or institution, it is critical to observe the statute of limitations for healthcare in your state. The statute determines the timeframe for filing a medical malpractice claim and can vary considerably from one state to another. Morgan & Morgan’s medical malpractice lawyers can help victims of substandard medical care receive the compensation they need to rebuild their lives. Contact us today to schedule a free case review.
Examples of Medical Malpractice
Unfortunately, malpractice in the healthcare sector is common. According to Johns Hopkins University, malpractice deaths are almost as frequent as cancer and heart disease deaths. Medical malpractice claims can occur in numerous circumstances, including during hospital stays, surgeries, and labor. Common examples of medical malpractice include:
Misdiagnosis can include incorrect diagnoses, delayed diagnoses, or failing to give a diagnosis. A misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can have devastating consequences for a patient, potentially causing life-threatening complications. Some commonly misdiagnosed conditions include, among others:
- Heart attack
Surgical negligence occurs when healthcare providers make avoidable errors during an operation, causing additional injuries or aggravating your condition. Surgical mistakes include but are not limited to:
- Operating on a wrong body part
- Wrong-patient surgery
- Leaving surgical instruments in the body
- Failing to inform the patient about surgery risks
- Infection due to poor hospital hygiene
- Organ or nerve injury
- Anesthesia errors
- Failure to monitor patients
Healthcare professionals must be careful to prescribe the correct medication. Administering the wrong medicine or dosage can have various negative consequences ranging from minor adverse side effects to death. Medication errors can include:
- Issuing the wrong prescription
- Prescribing medication that the patient is allergic to
- Prescribing the wrong dosage or treatment length
The majority of births are successful. However, delivery and labor sometimes require split-second decisions from doctors and midwives. For the family, a severe birth injury is heartbreaking and can cause significant emotional and financial stress, particularly if the child is permanently disabled and needs around-the-clock care. Preventable birth injuries include:
- Head and limb injuries due to excessive force or wrong use of instruments
- Lack of oxygen to the brain
- IVF Negligence
- Failing to identify and treat a mother’s infection
- Misdiagnosed miscarriage
The emotional distress and monetary cost of a severe birth injury can be immense. Our medical malpractice attorneys can leave no stone unturned in the fight for adequate compensation to help provide for your child’s needs now and in the future.
Not all hospital-acquired infections arise due to negligence. However, you could have a case if your disease was avoidable and you caught an infection due to negligent care. Hospital infections can include Norovirus, COVID-19, MRSA, and others. Negligence potentially leading to avoidable infections includes:
- Failure to quarantine patients with viral infections
- Improper hand hygiene
- Failing to sterilize surgical tools
- Reusing contaminated materials
- Failing to clean rooms and surfaces adequately
- Improperly disposing of infected materials
Statute of Limitations in Healthcare
The statute of limitations generally sets a deadline for medical malpractice cases. Victims only have a certain amount of time to initiate a lawsuit and pursue damages. The statute of limitations varies depending on your state and the type of case you bring.
However, all statutes have in common that the time typically starts ticking on the day of your injury and the alleged malpractice. There is also a “discovery rule” in most states, allowing patients who did not detect their injury right away to start the clock only when they discover (or should have discovered) their injury.
Medical Malpractice Statutes of Limitations by State
The general statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is as follows:
One year: Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee (one or three years, depending on the type of case).
Two years: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida (two or four years), Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, New York (two-and-a-half years), Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming.
Three years: California (one or three years), District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland (three or five years), Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin.
Four Years: Minnesota.
However, the statute in your case can depend on other factors, including the nature of your case and whether your defendant is a public or private entity. Your medical malpractice case will most likely get thrown out if you file a lawsuit after the statute has passed in your state. Therefore, speaking to a qualified and experienced medical malpractice attorney is critical for protecting your rights to justice and compensation.
Morgan & Morgan is here for you. We can advise you of the best timing for your medical malpractice lawsuit.
Statutes of Limitations in Complex Medical Malpractice Claims
Medical malpractice cases can potentially involve multiple claims. For example, you could have a claim combining medical malpractice, wrongful death, and breach of contract. Each of these cases could have a different statute of limitations. However, it is generally a good idea to observe the shortest applicable timeframe when filing a lawsuit.
Things could get even more complicated if you have a claim in more than one state. Disputes involving several jurisdictions can arise when another state’s diagnostic laboratory makes an error, for example. In this case, an experienced attorney can analyze the case and determine the applicable timeframe for filing a lawsuit.
The Consequences of Waiting Too Long to File a Lawsuit
If you wait until after the statute of limitations has passed to file your medical malpractice case, a court will typically dismiss your case “with prejudice.” This means that you are barred from bringing another claim arising from the same medical malpractice incident. You would also lose your right to seek compensation from negligent healthcare professionals. However, some exceptions can extend or pause the statute of limitations, which is why speaking to a medical malpractice attorney is crucial if you think you missed the deadline.
Exceptions to the Statutes of Limitations in Healthcare
In rare cases, the statute of limitations could be reset, paused, or extended. The legal term for this is “tolling” the statute. Examples of when the statute of limitations could be tolled:
- The injured person was a minor at the time of the malpractice incident
- The victim was mentally incompetent and unable to file a lawsuit
- The defendant left the state to avoid responsibility
There can be other situations that lengthen the time available to file a suit. Therefore, if you are not sure whether the statute for filing your claim has passed, speak to us as soon as possible. You could still have legal recourse and receive compensation.