Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice

Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice

Read Time

4 mins

IN THIS ARTICLE
IN THIS ARTICLE

When doctors make mistakes while working, patients or their family members have a right to sue them for malpractice. In fact, lawsuits against physicians are more common than you may think. By 55, one in three doctors has been sued. If you do get sued as a doctor, your legal team will start by seeing if the incident has surpassed the statute of limitations. If so, the case may be thrown out altogether. What is the statute of limitations on medical malpractice in your state? Let’s find out.

What are Statutes of Limitations?

In medical malpractice lawsuits, there’s a specific amount of time that the patient has to file the lawsuit after the incident they’re suing over occurred. This is called a statute of limitations, and each state has their own time frame. Two or three years is a common statute of limitations, but some states only have one, while others go all the way up to five. If you try to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations runs out, your case will most likely be dismissed. In many instances, no matter how strong of a case you have, the statute of limitations is binding and you won’t be able to file. That’s why having malpractice insurance is a necessity for all physicians, as it can protect you if your suit goes to trial.

Can the Statute of Limitations be Extended in Medical Malpractice?

There are times when the statute of limitations can be extended. Again, each state will have its own laws and requirements, but there are a few common exemptions many states abide by.

Discovery Rule

States like Washington D.C. and New York follow what’s known as the Discovery Rule. This rule states that if a patient doesn’t reasonably discover their injury or isn’t affected by it until a later date, the clock starts at that later date rather than at the time the incident occurred.

Minor exemptions

Typically, for any malpractice incidents that occur against minors (those under 18), they’ll have until they are 21 to file a claim. Not all states follow this exemption. For example, Connecticut follows the Discovery Rule, but does not grant minors an extended statute of limitations.

Fraudulent behavior exemptions

Doctors who commit fraud by attempting to hide their malpractice are cause for extended statute of limitations. This is a crime, which will often override the statute of limitations on medical malpractice in states that recognize this rule.

Mental health exemptions

If the patient bringing up the lawsuit had a recorded mental illness at the time of the incident, statute of limitations may be extended. Washington D.C. has this exemption in place, and extended it to incarcerated individuals as well.

Foreign object discovery

A very specific exemption is if a foreign object is found in the body of the patient after the statute of limitation is up. The limitation time frame instead begins at the time of the discovery. New York state abides by this exemption.

Statutes of Limitations by State

Below, you’ll find a list of each state’s limitation time frame and where this limitation is named.

  • Alabama: 2 years
  • Alaska: 2 years
  • Arizona: 2 years
  • Arkansas: 2 years
  • California: 1-3 years
  • Colorado: 2 years
  • Connecticut: 2 years
  • Delaware: 2 years
  • D.C.: 3 years
  • Florida: 2 years
  • Georgia: 2 years
  • Hawaii: 2 years
  • Idaho: 2 years
  • Illinois: 2 years
  • Indiana: 2 years
  • Iowa: 2 years
  • Kansas: 2 years
  • Kentucky: 1 year
  • Louisiana: 1 year
  • Maine: 3 years
  • Maryland: 3-5 years
  • Massachusetts: 3 years
  • Michigan: 2 years
  • Minnesota: 4 years
  • Mississippi: 2 years
  • Missouri: 2 years
  • Montana: 3 years
  • Nebraska: 2 years
  • Nevada: 3 years
  • New Hampshire: 2 years
  • New Jersey: 2 years
  • New Mexico: 3 years
  • New York: 2.5 years
  • North Carolina: 3 years
  • North Dakota: 2 years
  • Ohio: 1 year
  • Oklahoma: 2 years
  • Oregon: 2 years
  • Pennsylvania: 2 years
  • Rhode Island: 3 years
  • South Carolina: 3 years
  • South Dakota: 2 years
  • Tennessee: 1-3 years
  • Texas: 2 years
  • Utah: 2 years
  • Vermont: 3 years
  • Virginia: 2 years
  • Washington: 3 years
  • West Virginia: 2 years
  • Wisconsin: 3 years
  • Wyoming: 2 years

Christopher Murray

Christopher Murray received a B.A. in English Literature and Gender Studies from Smith College. He now lives in Maine with his husband where he spends his free time watching reruns of The X-Files and dreaming of traveling in a refurbished VW Bus while writing the next Great American Novel. Chris has extensive writing and editing experience across a range of industries, but with a specialty in personal finance and investing.

READ MORE

Ready to get started?

Compare the best offers for