Medical malpractice law was initiated to offer justice to the victims of a doctor’s negligence. Under this law, the sufferers can file a suit in court and demand compensation. However, there are certain rules that govern this right given to sufferers. Of all the important regulations, Statute of Limitations is the most important one.
Statute of Limitations
Statute of limitations refers to the time span during which a sufferer is allowed to file a case of medical malpractice against the doctor. This period begins from the date when the injury took place or was discovered up to 2 or 5 years, as prescribed by the state laws. Beyond that period a case becomes null and void and cannot be initiated in the court again. The period of limitation varies from state to state and case to case. There are different factors that influence this period such as age of victim, nature of medical emergency, nature of treatment, fraudulent case, foreign objects etc.
Right to Defendant
Right of Dismissal – The defendant has a right to refuse to entertain a malpractice case if the sufferer has filed the case after the expiry of the Statute of Limitations. However, in few cases, the defendant may decide to waiver the restriction and allow a legal proceeding to take place. Also, a particular case gets a waiver if proven that the doctor had intentionally concealed information or caused harm.
Exceptions to the Law
Law provides for some privileges where the sufferer can file a case of negligence even after the expiry of Statute of Law. The two exceptions are:
Discovery Rule – Often it happens that the cause of medical malpractice is realized after years after the patient took medical care. It may happen that the patient may suffer repercussions of a medical malpractice after certain years. In this condition, the period of statute limitations begins from the day the malpractice was discovered and not the day when it occurred. However, this rule is applicable to few states. Some other states provide a longer period for statute of limitations but disallows the privilege of discovery rule. The statute period begins the day the malpractice occurred.
For example: If a doctor leaves a foreign object inside the body of his patient and the patient realizes of the same after a considerable span of time, he can file a case of malpractice or If a child was delivered following medical complications, he may develop damages to one of his body organs. This condition is discovered after two years, then the parents can fight a case of malpractice.
Concealments of facts – If it is discovered that the medical team concealed vital information from the patients during the treatment and this concealment caused injury then Statute of Limitation is no more applicable. The victim can file a compliant beyond the statute. Also, such a case is not treated as a malpractice but as a crime as there is intentional concealment of facts and not negligence.
Some examples of Statute of Limitations Laws in different States
Massachusetts – The statute of limit is up to 3 years from the date of injury. Claims under discovery rule may be made up to 7 years from date of injury, not beyond date. For children below 6 years of age, claims may be made before the child turns 9 years or before the expiry of 7 years from date of injury, whichever is earlier.
Washington – The statute of limit is up to 3 years from the date of injury and additional one year is given from the date of discovery. A minor has three years after his eighteenth birthday to file a case of medical malpractice. However, no action can be taken after 8 years have passed from the date of injury.
New York – New York allows a span of 30 days only from the date of injury to file claims. Besides, in case of foreign body, the sufferer has 1 year from the date of discovery. For minors, the period is of 3 years from the date of 18th birthday but the injury should not be older than 10 years.
Florida – Florida sets a limit of 2 years from the date of injury or date of discovery to file claims. For children below 8 years of age, the time limit is 2 years or till they reach their eighth birthday, whichever is greater.
Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations is a significant factor that determines the validity of a case. Hence, always consult a professional medical malpractice lawyer before filing a malpractice case and make sure you get justice against the injuries suffered.