Imagine you’ve had surgery to have a benign abdominal tumor removed. After making an easy recovery, follow-up appointments show that the surgery was a success. Soon you’re able to go back to work.
But two years later, you’re hit with excruciating pain – for no apparent reason. The feeling worsens as the days drag on. Four months and hundreds of dollars in doctor’s appointments later, you’re still stuck with inexplicable pain and no answers.
Finally, a doctor orders an x-ray, which reveals your worst nightmare: during that surgery you had years ago, surgeons left a metal retractor in your body (like this victim)! It’s obvious you were the victim of medical malpractice. Surely you’ll be awarded thousands of dollars in damages for the surgeon’s mistake…right?
Not if the medical malpractice statute of limitations has anything to say about it. It’s been nearly three years since your surgery took place. Depending on the state you live in, it may be too late.
Has something like the above situation happened to you? Don’t wait until time runs out. Contact a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney at Hampton & King to discuss your case today.
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What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Medical Malpractice?
Simply put, the statute of limitations is the time limit you have to file a lawsuit. This deadline isn’t the same throughout the country. It varies by state, usually from two to six years.
What happens if you try to file your claim after the deadline has passed? The court will dismiss it, and you won’t be able to take any further action.
But the medical malpractice statute of limitations can be a bit more complicated than that. This is because most states add on second or third parts of the statute that outline exceptions. These rules mean you may be able to file even after the standard deadline has passed, as long as you meet the requirements. Read on to find out more about these exceptions.
The “Discovery” Exception And Others
Let’s return to the example above. It’s been almost three years since you went under the knife. But you didn’t discover the unwanted “guest’ in your abdomen until now. (Avoidable surgical errors happen more often than you might think. Read more about it here.)
Luckily for you, your state has a “discovery” exception to the medical malpractice statute of limitations in place. This means that the time limit count-down (let’s say two years) doesn’t begin until the day you find out that you’re a victim of malpractice. So even though it has been more than two years, you still have the right to file your lawsuit.
The exact definition of this “discovery rule” is different state-by-state. It may mean that the “count-down” until the deadline begins the day you found out you were harmed. Or, it may also include the day you reasonably should have found out you were harmed.
The Continuous Treatment Rule
Another exception that some states include in the medical malpractice statute of limitations is the continuous treatment rule. With this rule, the time limit doesn’t begin until after the victim of malpractice finishes his or her treatment with a doctor.
Deadline For Minors
Some states extend the time limit further when a minor is a victim of malpractice. This extension can be anywhere from a few years, to until the minor reaches the age of 18.
The Statute Of Repose
The statute of repose isn’t exactly an exception. Rather, it’s the final deadline that some states impose on medical malpractice cases. It puts a cap on any lawsuits after a certain number of years have passed, no matter what exceptions may apply. For example, some states have a 10 year statute of repose.
What Is The Medical Malpractice Statute Of Limitations In My State?
Medical malpractice cases can be complex. The medical malpractice statute of limitations for these cases and the exceptions that may be available to you vary by state.
It’s possible to find information about your state’s laws on the internet. But keep in mind that this information may not be up to date. So the best way to ensure you don’t miss your deadline is to speak with a medical malpractice lawyer who is well-versed in your state’s laws and has access to information about any changes your state has made.
Preparing For Your Medical Malpractice Case
One of the main reasons why many victims never receive monetary damages is because they fail to meet the medical malpractice statute of limitations for their state. You can avoid this fate by contacting an attorney as soon as you’re aware that you or a loved one is a victim. Be sure to choose a lawyer from your state, one familiar with the laws that apply to your case. Hampton & King provides caring and compassionate advocacy in Houston, Texas. Contact us today for a free consultation!