Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations By State

Like all lawsuits, medical malpractice lawsuits are subject to a time limit known as a statute of limitations. For a victim of medical malpractice, these time limits mean that winning compensation can be impossible, even if a medical professional has been extremely negligent.

In all states, the patient has at least one year to file a lawsuit after the injury occurs. In many states, though, the time limit is much longer. There also may be exceptions to the standard statute of limitations based on the patient’s age and when the malpractice was discovered.

Standard Deadline

Many states have a two-year statute of limitations that starts when the negligent act occurs. You do not have to win or even appear in court within this statute of limitations, but you must at least file your medical malpractice claim within this time period.

Unfortunately, this time limit often expires before patients realize how much harm has been done. Sometimes patients assume that a medical error was fairly minor and benign, but it ends up having life-changing consequences.

The Discovery Rule (Discovery of Harm)

In some states, there are exceptions to the general statute of limitations that allow for the amount of time it takes to discover that malpractice has occurred. This is known as the discovery rule, and it allows patients to file a medical malpractice claim within a certain amount of time after the discovery of the injury.

Using the discovery rule to extend the statute of limitations can be difficult, since a health care provider’s attorneys may fight against how the rule is applied. However, with an expert law firm on your side, you may be able to win your case using the discovery rule.

An Example of the Discovery Rule

The discovery rule often applies to misdiagnosis cases where the doctor did not use an acceptable standard of care. If you are living with a chronic condition, you may suffer through an incorrect diagnosis for years before your doctor’s mistake is discovered.

In a state without the discovery rule, you might not be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit if a medical professional misdiagnosed you more than a few years ago. In a state with the discovery rule, though, you may be able to file a claim once the misdiagnosis has been uncovered by another doctor. Even if it has been a few years since the initial misdiagnosis, you may be able to win damages if you can file suit quickly and prove that the misdiagnosis was negligent.

The Statute of Limitations For Minor Children

There is also often an exception for medical malpractice cases involving minor children. For example, a state may allow minors who are victims of medical malpractice to file suit within one year after their 18th birthday, even if they experienced the medical malpractice as a child.

Of course, it may greatly benefit the child and his family to file much sooner. Parents should speak to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to get the compensation they need to take care of their child, especially if the child has suffered brain damage or other life-changing harm.

Statute of Repose

Some states have an additional law that overrides both the discovery rule and the exceptions for minor children. A statute of repose is a law that bars cases from being filed more than a certain number of years after the malpractice occurred, regardless of when it was discovered.

For example, some states have a statute of repose of six years. If you live in one of these states, you will not be able to file a medical malpractice claim if the malpractice occurred more than six years ago – even if you did not discover it until recently.

Statewide statute of limitations in Michigan

In Michigan, the statute of limitations for most medical malpractice cases is two years.

There is an exception for minor children that allows them to file a medical malpractice claim within one year after their 18th birthday, even if it has been more than two years since the malpractice occurred. However, there are further special rules and time limits for children who were under 8 years old or under 13 years old for certain types of injuries.

Michigan’s statute of limitations includes the discovery rule, but you must file your claim within six months of the discovery of harm. This short time frame means that in order to file a claim under the discovery rule, you must hurry to speak to a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible.

Statute of Repose in Michigan

However, there is also a statute of repose of six years, meaning that victims of medical negligence and malpractice from more than six years ago may not be able to file a medical malpractice case. This rule overrides the exceptions for the discovery rule and exceptions for minor children.

Even if you could not have known that the malpractice had occurred, you may be prevented from filing a claim if the six-year time limit is up.

Getting Your Questions Answered

Because of the discovery rule and the special exceptions for minors, the medical malpractice statutes of limitations in Michigan isn’t always clear-cut. You’ll need an expert personal injury lawyer to help you sort through the facts of your specific case.

At Cochran, Knoll and Associates, we have a team of medical malpractice attorneys with decades of experience. Our law firm has the expert knowledge of Eileen Knoll, an attorney and registered nurse who can help evaluate your case. Contact us today so we can work on your case and protect your rights before the statute of limitations expires.

Hannah Johnson has her Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs with a specialization in civic engagement. Her career has focused on labor-related research, including unions, workers’ compensation, and contract law. She is now broadening her career to include research and policy analysis in East Asia, specifically in countries like South Korea and Japan where the aging population is creating a new frontier in economic trends and public policy innovation.

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