Medical Malpractice:

Time Limit or Statute of Limitations

In medical malpractice law, the statute of limitations refers to the period from the time an injury occurs to the final date on which a medical malpractice suit can be filed. It is essentially a time limit on medical malpractice lawsuits.  If the statute of limitations expires before a malpractice suit is filed, the defendant can have the case dismissed for being untimely. It is up to the defendant to alert the court of a statute of limitations violation. The statute of limitations will vary among claims and each state's medical malpractice law - the limit may range from six months to four years.

Discovery Rule

Certain states have what's called a discovery rule, which means that the statute of limitations begins running once the injury is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.  This is often cited in reference to surgical errors that leave retained foreign objects.  For instance, if a patient had a surgical sponge left in his or her abdomen after an appendectomy, he or she might not notice a problem for a while, perhaps chalking the discomfort up to normal recovery for surgery.  The problems that this could cause might not manifest themselves for some time, and it is likely that only an X-ray could correctly identify the issue.  Depending on the state's discovery rule, the patient could still file a suit after the statute of limitations had run out, provided he or she can prove that there was no knowledge of injury beforehand.

Particulars of the discovery rule vary by state, and it is unlikely that anyone will have an indefinite amount of time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.  However, only an experienced medical malpractice attorney can review your case and determine whether you are able to file a lawsuit according to the statutes of the area in which you live.