If you or someone you love is considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, you might notice a lot of complex legal procedures and requirements. You may have heard or read the term statute of limitations, but understanding what it is and how it affects your case is essential. Read more to learn about how your medical malpractice attorney can help you navigate its nuances.
Ask a Medical Malpractice Attorney: What’s the Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice?
Statute of Limitations
One of the first considerations when alleging medical malpractice is whether you have time before the statute of limitations expires. A statute of limitations is a law that sets the deadline for filing your lawsuit. Barring exceptional circumstances, the court will not consider your case if you do not file within that specific timeframe.
To ensure you file your case on time, you need a top medical malpractice lawyer in Maryland to help you navigate state-specific requirements. Maryland’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases states that you must file within three years of discovering that you were injured or within five years after the injury was committed – this is known as the Discovery Rule.
How to Calculate the Statute of Limitations
It can be hard to determine the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases due to the varying natures of malpractice and the specifics of each case. You must know the timing of your actual injury and of your discovery (through exercising due diligence) that the medical negligence caused the injury. You must meet both of these conditions to have a valid claim and to calculate your statute of limitations.
When Did You First Suffer Injury?
Knowing exactly when the injury arose can be complex. For the court, an injury arises at the onset of pain, when a disease advances to a point where its treatment cannot be as effective as would have been possible if not for misdiagnosis, or if the treatment for the injury is now more costly (financially or physically) than it would have been if the treatment had begun responsibly.
When Did You Discover Negligence to Be the Cause?
Sometimes it can take years for a patient to determine that their injury was due to negligence rather than simply being a new health problem. Pinpointing when your first connection between the injury and the substandard care occurred is crucial when determining your statute of limitations. Your attorney can help you answer these questions.
There are circumstances where the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in Maryland could be paused and extended. This is called “tolling.” Tolling extends the statute of limitations in specific cases when a judge believes there is a valid reason. Judicial tolling is rare and very unlikely to occur in a standard medical malpractice case.
If the Doctor Is Absent or Fraudulent
The statute of limitations may be tolled in cases where the healthcare provider is absent, such as if they are out of state and therefore unable to participate in the suit, or when the provider engaged in fraudulent concealment of your injury. These are cases where the provider deliberately conceals the cause of injury from the patient and therefore prevents the patient from reasonably discovering negligence within the specified time frame.
Cases Involving Minors
In specific cases involving patients with injuries that occurred when they were younger than 11 or 16, the statute of limitations will be tolled until the patient is 18. That means that the clock on the statute of limitations begins once the patient turns 18 rather than when the patient initially discovered the injury. This includes people harmed by birth injury.
Cases Involving People With Disabilities or Incapacitation
The statute of limitations also may be tolled in cases of disability or when a person is incapable of taking their case to court before the deadline. A person could be financially, medically, or mentally disabled and therefore incapable of filing their case. The court will consider that and may toll the statute of limitations until the person’s disability is removed and they can bring forward their case.
What This Means for You
Time Is of the Essence
Your time is probably dwindling if you want to proceed with a medical malpractice case. If the statute of limitations has not expired for you yet, you must follow specific legal procedures or risk getting your case dismissed. If you delay, your attorney may not be able to gather enough evidence and the necessary documents to file on time.
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases can be tough to understand. Now that you have information about it, you know even more about its nuances and complexity. If a healthcare professional caused you harm, you should act quickly to meet with an attorney to help you file your claim and get the fair compensation you deserve.