Home Blog How Long To Sue For Medical Malpractice (All You Need To Know)

How Long To Sue For Medical Malpractice (All You Need To Know)

How Long To Sue For Medical Malpractice?

What are the legal timelines that apply to malpractice claims?

How does it work?

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let’s look into the statute of limitations on malpractice to answer your question!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

How Long To Sue For Medical Malpractice

Some of the most common questions that is asked following a medical malpractice incident is how long can you sue for malpractice or how long is the statute of limitations for medical malpractice.

Depending on the applicable law, the timeline that you may have to sue a doctor, hospital, medical professional, or other for medical malpractice may vary.

What you need to find out is the applicable statute of limitations.

Essentially, the “statute of limitations” is the legal deadline that is provided by law for a plaintiff to file a claim or lawsuit against a defendant for medical malpractice.

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice is fairly complex so if you need to make an important decision involving a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit, you should consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney for specific advice.

In this article, I’ll try to give you an overall view to help answer the question of how long do you have to sue for malpractice.

Let’s look at the possible application of the malpractice statute of limitations.

Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

The first thing to take note of is the standard medical malpractice deadline provided under your state law (the applicable laws to the medical malpractice claim).

In the United States, depending on the state laws, there may be a statute of limitations ranging between two to six years to file a lawsuit for malpractice.

Typically, the standard statute of limitations “clock” starts ticking from the moment the injury was caused or from the moment of the incident.

Let’s look at an example.

You may ask how long do you have to file medical malpractice suit?

Imagine a doctor performing the wrong surgery on the patient causing injuries.

If the state law provides a standard statute of limitation of three years for malpractice, the patient will have three years to sue a doctor for malpractice from the surgery date.

Discovery Rule In Medical Malpractice Claims

In some cases, the application of the standard medical malpractice statute of limitations may not lead to a fair outcome and as a result the law has created the “discovery rule” as an exception.

Discovery Rule Meaning

In some states, the law allows for the victim of medical malpractice to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations timeline but starting from the moment the victim became “aware” of the injury instead of the date when the injury was actually caused.

There are instances when a doctor’s error does not manifest itself immediately but months (even years later). 

If the victim did not even know he or she had a possible medical malpractice claim and the day he or she realizes that the claim existed, it would be unfair to apply the standard statute of limitations and bar the victim of a valid claim.

In such case, generally speaking, the states that have the discovery rule allow the statute of limitations clock to start running from the moment the victim became aware or had sufficient notice that he or she was harmed or of the cause of the harm.

Discovery Rule Example

For example, a doctor makes a professional mistake in not detecting that the victim was in the early development of cancer and the statute of limitations in that state is two years.

Three years later, the victim is diagnosed with advanced cancer that may be life-threatening. 

It is only at this time that the victim is informed or becomes aware that the first doctor failed to properly diagnose the cancer three years earlier and has a claim for medical malpractice.

In this case, based on the standard statute of limitations, the action is time-barred. 

However, based on the application of the discovery rule, the patient will have two years from the second diagnosis to file a lawsuit.

Continuous Treatment Rule

Certain states have medical malpractice statute of limitations laws stating that the legal timeline can only start ticking from the moment the patient’s treatment ended.

In other words, if a person is being treated for an illness of some kind, the statute of limitations clock will not start running until the doctor or medical professional has formally reached the end of the treatment.

If there was cause for medical malpractice, the victim will have a certain number of years to sue the doctor starting from the date the treatment was completed.

For example, if a patient undergoes medical treatment lasting a year after which point a medical malpractice claim is discovered.

If under the applicable state laws the statute of limitations is of three years, then the victim will have three years from the end of the treatment to sue.

The “Infancy” Toll And Minor Children

Another exception to the standard statute of limitations for malpractice affecting how long you have to sue a doctor is in relation to minor children.

If you wonder how long do you have to sue a doctor relating to a child, it’s important to properly look at the applicable state laws to see what deadlines are specifically provided for.

In most states, the laws are designed to provide for a specific deadline to apply to medical malpractice cases relating to minor children (those under the age of eighteen) or claims filed by a child’s legal guardian.

Statute of Repose In Medical Malpractice

The statute of repose is another key legal framework that may impact a plaintiff’s possibility of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

In some states, the laws provide for a statute of repose where the law sets a maximum and “absolute” limit to file a medical malpractice lawsuit from the moment of the injury was caused and regardless of when it was discovered by the victim.

Keep in mind that some states have the notion of statute of repose but don’t necessarily call it as such.

So if you were injured in a state having a stute of repose of ten years and wondering how long do I have to sue for medical malpractice, the answer is no more than ten years following the malpractice incident (regardless of the possible application of the discovery rule).

How Long Do You Have To Sue For Medical Malpractice Takeaways 

So there you have it folks!

Here are some questions that some of you have in mind:

  • How long do you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit?
  • What is the time limit to file a medical malpractice lawsuit?
  • When is it too late to sue for medical malpractice?
  • How long do I have to bring a medical malpractice claim?

If you are considering filing a medical malpractice claim, it’s crucial that you are well informed as to your legal “deadline” for filing such claims.

Every state has different statute of limitations laws defining how long you have to sue following a medical malpractice incident.

For specific legal advice in your case, you must consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to answer the question of how long do you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. 

In essence, you must look at the statute of limitations to know how much time you have to sue for medical malpractice (depending on the state laws, it can range between two to six years).

Once you know the standard delay to file suit, you can then see if there are any exceptions that may apply thereby “extending” your legal delays.

Again, depending on your state laws, you may have any of the following exceptions that may apply:

  • Discovery rule allowing you to start the legal deadline clock from the moment you actually discovered there was medical malpractice
  • Continuous treatment rule where the legal clock starts ticking from the moment the doctor’s treatment was completed
  • Statute of repose providing an absolute deadline for filing medical malpractice claims and lawsuits regardless of treatment duration and moment of discovery 
  • Infancy tolling where the statute of limitations is extended if the victim was a minor 

I hope I was able to answer your questions like how long after malpractice can you sue or how long can you wait to sue for medical malpractice.

Good luck!

Now, let’s look at a summary of our findings.

How Long Do You Have To Sue For Medical Negligence

  • Every state has laws specifically defining how long you have to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice and they can range between 2 to 6 years
  • The laws that define the legal deadline for filing a claim are called “statute of limitations” 
  • Depending on the applicable laws, you may have some exceptions that allow a victim more time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit 
  • The most common exceptions are the “discovery rule”, the “continuous treatment rule”, the “infancy toll”, and the “statute of repose”
Acceptable care 
Certificate of merit 
Civil court 
Continuous treatment rule 
Discovery rule
Elements of medical malpractice 
How to file a malpractice lawsuit 
Informed consent rule 
Medical malpractice attorney 
Medical malpractice damages 
Medical malpractice lawsuit 
Medical misdiagnosis 
Medical negligence 
Offer of proof
Personal injury case 
Professional liability insurance 
Professional negligence 
Statute of limitations on malpractice 
Statute of repose
Toxic tort 
Vicarious liability 
What is medical malpractice 
Wrongful death for medical malpractice
Author
Absolute liability 
Attorney vs lawyer 
Boutique law firm 
Car accident claim
Case evaluation 
Contingency fee agreement
Duty of care
Elements of negligence 
General practice attorney 
Gross negligence 
Insurance claims
Letter of engagement 
Liability cap 
Personal injury defense
Personal injury lawyer 
Premises liability 
Product liability attorney
Retainer agreement 
Specialized attorney 
Social security disability 
Tort reform 
Workers compensation claim
Author

Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!

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