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Do Medical Malpractice Claims Have a Different Statute of Limitations?

The term “statute of limitations” is found in both civil and criminal law. In reference to a personal injury lawsuit, it establishes the time you have to file a lawsuit after you are injured due to another’s negligence. When the statute of limitations has run out, you can no longer file a lawsuit seeking a remedy for your injuries, no matter how seriously you may have been hurt.

Each state has its own limitations period, but all require legal action to be taken within a certain time after the injury occurs. For example, if you were injured in a car accident, the statute of limitations begins to run on the date you were injured in the accident. Some states may give you two years after your injury; others may give you three. But since the time begins to run on the date you were injured in the accident, it is fairly easy to calculate the date the time will end, barring you from filing your lawsuit.

The Discovery Rule for Medical Malpractice Claims

A looming question for medical malpractice claims is: what is the date that the injury occurred? If you wake up from surgery and discover your healthy leg was amputated instead of the diseased one, the answer is simple. The statute begins to run on the day you discover the wrong leg was amputated.

But what if a tool or sponge was left inside you during an abdominal surgical procedure? You may not discover it until years later when you develop continuous and severe abdominal pain and an x-ray reveals the foreign object left inside. Or imagine you were told the lump in your breast was benign only to discover months later it was actually cancerous.

Most states have adopted a “discovery rule” for medical malpractice claims. This means just what it sounds like: the statute begins to run on the date the injured party discovers, or should have discovered, the injury.

It is often complicated to determine the exact date the statute of limitations begins to run, even under the discovery rule. If you believe you are the victim of medical malpractice, you need to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney, who will review all the circumstances concerning your case. The sooner you call, the better. You do not want to discover that the statute of limitations has run out and you can no longer pursue a remedy for your injuries.

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