If a healthcare professional has caused you harm, chances are you can sue for medical malpractice. These types of lawsuits are based on a medical practitioner’s negligence, such as poor or incorrect treatment, that directly resulted in some form of injury. However, once you sustain an injury, the clock starts ticking.
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The Statute of Limitations
The amount of time you have to file a medical malpractice claim depends on the state, but typically, your timeline begins the day you sustained the injury. On average, the statute of limitations is about two years. Some states, such as Ohio, Kentucky, and Louisiana only give you one year to file a claim, and some states max out at three years. If you file past the deadline set by your state, your case will very likely be dismissed. Statutes of limitations exist to protect defendants from false allegations.
The Discovery of Harm Rule
Depending on your situation, you may be allowed more time to file. Some states allow the “discovery of harm” rule, where the statute of limitations is based not on when the injury occurred but when you became aware of medical malpractice. Some injuries are latent in nature, or sometimes people later realize that they were subjected to negligence.
For example, one common situation where the discovery rule comes into play is where a surgeon leaves an object or tool inside the patient’s body. The patient may not be aware of this until it starts causing pain months or even years after the initial surgery. Once there’s awareness, whether it’s from connecting the pain to the surgery, getting a second opinion, or receiving an examination, the discovery rule version of the statute of limitations may go into effect. Each state has its own version of the discovery rule, but this exception usually extends the statute of limitations a year or two.
The Earlier, the Better
Regardless of the deadline, you should file a claim as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more you risk working outside of the statute of limitations. Additionally, claims that are filed closer to the statute of limitations deadline are deemed suspicious, and you may require extra evidence to corroborate your claim. This could be made difficult by the fact that evidence can get lost over time and important witness testimony can become unreliable after a while.
Don’t hesitate to consult a medical malpractice lawyer. They’ll be up to date on your state’s regulations, and they’ll be able to help build your case if you meet the criteria for a medical malpractice case.