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Medical Malpractice And Statute Of Limitations

By Expert Author: R. Klettke

The statute of limitations with respect to medical malpractice cases can be complex and difficult to calculate. Not only do the laws differ from state to state, time limitations change according to type of injury and whether the claim involves a governmental entity. There can also be various exceptions according to the age of the plaintiff.


The statute of limitations is defined as, “an enactment in a common law legal system that sets the maximum time after an event that legal proceedings based on that event may be initiated.” In other words, the time period between when the injury or wrongful death happened until the final date when a medical malpractice lawyer can file the suit.


Always obtain a legal consultation with a personal injury attorney who specializes in medical malpractice law as soon as you suspect you may have a case. If the statute of limitations expires before your medical malpractice suit is filed, the case can be dismissed. If this happens you will have no recourse or means to sue for current injuries or even for future problems that may result for the remainder of your life.


The period of time during which a medical malpractice suit must be filed usually begins with the date of harm. This becomes day one. However, sometimes the injury does not become apparent for days, weeks, months or even years after it happened. In such situations, the statute of limitations could begin running the day the injury was discovered.


For medical malpractice lawsuits brought against health care providers in California, the statute of limitations is filed within three years after the date of the injury, or “one year after the plaintiff discovers, or should have discovered, the injury, whichever occurs first.”


There are exceptions to this rule, the first regarding claims based on a foreign object left inside the injured person’s body (such as surgical scissors or gauze) In these cases the statute of limitations day one begins when the person discovers, or should have discovered, the foreign object. Another exception addresses cases involving minor children under the age of six. For a minor under six, the case must be filed within three years of the date of injury or before the child's eighth birthday, whichever is the longer amount of time.


R. Klettke is a freelance writer. He writes about personal injury and medical malpractice law and other matters of jurisprudence.


Note: This article is not intended to provide legal advice upon which you should rely in making any decisions regarding the instituting or prosecuting of a legal claim. Laws and rules relating to the bringing of a claim vary widely from state to state. You should always contact a personal injury attorney to obtain information as to the rules and the laws pertaining to any claim you might have.

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