A patient that believes he or she has a medical malpractice case needs to understand the importance of the statute of limitations and how it can affect their ability to file. The term refers to the deadlines by which the patient needs to file their case and is determined by the state in which the malpractice took place. It is important for patients to remember that there is no single statute of limitations that applies to all types of cases or all states. For example, medical malpractice limitations and personal injury limitations will be different.
What is a Statute of Limitations
Most states will have a specific statute of limitations set up for medical malpractice claims. They have a very generous period set up for filing a claim because it is not always obvious that the patient is the victim of medical malpractice right away. Some harm might not initially be apparent, and it can be several years for some of these injuries to come to light.
How Does It Work?
The discovery rule, which is present in all of the states, means that the statute of limitations does not start until the patient discovers that he or she has been injured. This rule is in place for most cases.
However, if there is reasonable evidence that the person should have discovered and known about the injury within the normal time limit of the statute of limitations, then they will not be able to file a case. This simply means that if the patient has ignored signs that they could be suffering a problem or complications, then they will not be able to utilize the discovery rule. They will have bypassed the regular statute of limitations and cannot file a claim.
Most patients who have any complications after going through a procedure or receiving treatment will naturally seek out a doctor to help them with their health issues, and this is not likely to be a factor for the majority.
It Can Be Complicated
While it might seem straightforward, understanding the statute of limitations is anything but. Courts will often have differing viewpoints on when the statute of limitations begins, and it will depend on the wording of the law in the state. It can also vary depending on how the court treats protecting victims and protecting the perpetrators.
In some cases, the statute of limitations will begin at the time of the commission of the act. Other courts might determine that it begins at the time of discovery of the problem. If the injured patient dies, things can become even more complex. The court will then need to decide whether they will use the statute of limitations for medical malpractice, or if they will use wrongful death statutes instead. After determining that, they have to go back and determine what causes the statute to start. Again, it will often depend on the state and the court in question.
Patients Need Help
There are few areas of the law that are as convoluted and complex as medical malpractice. Patients and family members who are suffering because of the misdeeds of a medical professional need to have expert legal counsel to help them through these types of cases. A qualified attorney can help patients to make sense of the statute of limitations, as well as the rest of the case, so they are taking the right steps at the right time. Whenever a patient has been injured by a medical professional, the best course of action is to get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible.