What to Know About Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Medical malpractice statute of limitations refers to the legal time limit within which a patient can file a lawsuit against a healthcare professional or facility for alleged negligence or wrongdoing in their medical care or treatment. The specific rules and regulations regarding the statute of limitations vary from one state to another, but there are some important considerations that patients should be aware of when it comes to medical malpractice cases.

What to Know About Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Here are some important things to understand about the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases.

  1. Statute of limitations vary. Each state sets its own statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. It can range from one to several years, usually starting from the date of the alleged malpractice or from the date the patient discovered or should have discovered the injury resulting from the malpractice. In Washington State, the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases is typically three years.
  2. Tolling or “discovery” rule. In Washington State, we have a “discovery rule” that allows the statute of limitations to begin when the patient discovers the injury, rather than when the malpractice occurred. This can be especially important in cases where the harm caused by malpractice is not immediately apparent. The legal term for this is “tolling” the statute.
  3. Exceptions and special circumstances. Some jurisdictions may have specific exceptions to the statute of limitations. Common exceptions involve an underage victim, an evasion of justice, and the discovery rule. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can determine whether your case qualifies for an exception.
    • Minor patients. For cases involving minors, the statute of limitations may be extended or paused until the child reaches the age of majority (18), at which point the time limit begins to run.
    • Competency or disability. In cases where the patient is mentally incapacitated or has a legal disability, the statute of limitations may be extended or paused until they regain competency or their disability is lifted.
  4. Statute of repose. Some jurisdictions have a “statute of repose,” which sets an absolute time limit for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, regardless of when the injury was discovered. Washington State’s statute of repose is eight years after the date of the medical malpractice.
  5. Government entities. If the malpractice involves a government entity or a healthcare professional employed by the government, different rules and deadlines may apply. There may be shorter time limits and specific procedural requirements to follow.
  6. Evidence preservation. Delaying the filing of a medical malpractice lawsuit may result in the loss of crucial evidence or witnesses, making it more challenging to prove the case successfully. Timely action is essential for gathering and preserving evidence.

It is important for people who are the victims of medical malpractice to understand how statute of limitations is applied in their state. Overall, it’s essential for plaintiffs to act promptly (don’t wait until the statute is about to run out), seek legal advice, and preserve evidence to build a strong case within the applicable time limits.

Given the complexity of medical malpractice cases and the variations in statutes of limitations, it is essential to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to understand the applicable time limits and preserve your rights.

The Seattle Personal Injury Lawyers You Want on Your Side

The personal injury attorneys at Tinker Law Firm have been winning birth injury, medical malpractice, and personal injury cases for individuals and their loved ones in Seattle and across Washington State since 1974. We seek justice for injury victims who have been harmed by preventable medical errors, and the negligent or abusive actions of another. Our clients pay no fees or expenses to file a personal injury claim; our firm advances out-of-pocket expenses and is only reimbursed when we recover a settlement on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims in Washington State have a statute of limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time from the date of the injury.

Call us now at 206-842-1000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled and experienced injury attorneys.