How Long Do You Have To File a Medical Malpractice Claim?

Last updated on: September 30, 2022

If you have been injured due to medical malpractice you may be wondering, ‘How long do I have to contact a lawyer after surgery?’ The answer to this question will depend largely on the laws of the state in which the incident occurred, namely, the applicable statute of limitations.

What Is The Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Cases?

The statute of limitations is the length of time that you have after an accident to file a claim. A claim after that statute of limitations is likely to be dismissed. The exact length of time will most likely be between two and four years, but a medical malpractice attorney in your state can give you a more accurate idea.

There are multiple ways to measure the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases, depending on your state’s laws and the facts of your case. 

The earliest possible start date for the statute of limitations is the date the injury occurred. But many victims of medical malpractice are not aware when the harm occurred and only find out about the negligent act later.

It’s possible your window of statute of limitations might start when you reasonably should have noticed something irregular, harmful, or painful. For example, if your doctor committed medical malpractice by prescribing the wrong medication, you may have experienced extreme symptoms and side effects that made your condition worse.

However, it may have taken a few years for you to notice the symptoms and side effects of the incorrect medication and the statute of limitations may have already passed. There, the timeline for the statute of limitations might not begin until once you have perceived the damaging side effects.

Finally, courts might measure the statute of limitations starting from the date you actually discovered the harm inflicted upon you. This is called the discovery rule.

What To Do When The Statute of Limitations Deadline Has Passed?

If the statute of limitations passes before you have filed your claim, you may have missed out on your opportunity to seek compensation for your injury. However, medical malpractice cases have a unique nature that sometimes give victims more options for recovery even after the statute of limitations’ deadline has passed.

What If You Discover An Injury Or Defect Much Later? 

In most cases, the clock on the statute of limitations starts ticking on the date of the accident. If you were injured in a car accident, the timeline starts at the date of the accident. If you were hurt by a defective product that exploded, the timeline starts at the date of the explosion.

As we briefly discussed, certain exceptions may apply to the start date in medical malpractice cases. One of these exceptions is the discovery rule. The discovery rule would apply in the situation where a mistake made by a medical professional could not have actually been discovered until much later.

For example, imagine that a surgeon left a piece of surgical equipment in a patient during a surgery in 2020. The patient had no way of knowing that that happened but began to experience severe stomach pain in 2022 as a result. In this situation, the discovery rule may apply, pausing the clock on the statute of limitations until the later date when the victim discovered the issue. A medical injury lawyer in your state can give you a better idea of whether this exception applies in your case.

If You Were A Minor When The Malpractice Occurred

Children rely on their parents to make medical decisions for them. They rely on their parents to schedule and take them to doctor’s appointments and necessary surgery and other medical care. It’s also the parents’ responsibility to address any harm that befalls their children at the hands of a medical provider.

Since children count on their parents to address their medical issues, most states make exceptions around the statute of limitations when a care provider commits medical malpractice against a minor. This exception typically will not start the clock until the minor reaches the age of majority (most likely 18 years of age) in the state, even if the accident happened many years earlier.

This exception prevents states from inadvertently punishing victims whose parents were less prudent. It also protects children who were unable to accurately voice their discomfort at the time the injury happened.

This exception can greatly extend the statute of limitations for someone who suffered medical malpractice as a child. However, it is best to reach out to a medical injury attorney as quickly as possible to discuss what the options may be for you and your family.

Statute of Repose

A statute of repose is a legal construct that has been enacted in certain states which sets an absolute deadline on a victim’s ability to file a claim for medical malpractice in court, regardless of when they discovered their injuries. For example, in a state where the normal statute of limitations is two years, the statute of repose might be ten years.

Need Help? Contact Zinda Law Group Today

With all of the complex factors that go into determining the outcome of a medical malpractice claim, the answer to the question of, ‘How long do I have to reach out to a medical malpractice lawyer?’ is generally, ‘not long, so contact one as soon as you possibly can.’ While you may have years to file a claim, getting the ball rolling as soon as possible by speaking with a medical malpractice lawyer will likely give you the best possible chances of receiving maximum compensation for your injuries.

As a victim of medical malpractice, you could be entitled to economic damages and non-economic damages. If your case was especially severe, you could possibly receive punitive damages.

Economic damages cover the financial loss you suffered, such as your medical expenses from addressing the medical malpractice, missed wages from the time you had to take off work, and other costs. Non-economic damages compensate you for the pain and suffering you experienced from the doctor’s harm. Finally, you might also receive punitive damages if the court sees fit to punish the care provider that caused your injury and to prevent the care provider from making similar mistakes in the future.

For victims and their family members, suffering through an incident of medical malpractice can be physically, mentally, and emotionally devastating. Medical care providers, like nurses, are some of the people that Americans trust the most, and this fact can add to the distress when a doctor or nurse makes a mistake that leads to your injury. When facing this situation, it is important to remember that you and your family don’t need to go through it alone—a medical malpractice lawyer can help in myriad ways.

If you have been the victim of a doctor or nurse who committed medical malpractice, call 888-541-6283. You can schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced attorneys today.

Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.