Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or medical practitioner acts with negligence when treating you and in doing so causes you physical or emotional damages. When this occurs, you have the legal right to seek compensation from that doctor, however you only have a certain amount of time to do so. The time frame in which you can pursue legal action is referred to as the medical malpractice statute of limitations, and it’s very important that you understand what this timeframe is and how it works if you are a victim of medical malpractice.
Typically the medical malpractice statute of limitations varies, depending on the state in which you reside. For example, a person who has suffered injury do to a doctor’s negligence in Pennsylvania generally has two years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit and seek compensation. Other states may have longer time frames, and yet others have shorter ones. It’s critical that you find out the statute of limitations that your state imposes as soon as you determine you are going to seek legal action.
As with any rule, however, there are exceptions. One such exception to the medical malpractice statute of limitations is called the “discovery rule”. This occurs when a doctor makes a mistake but the symptoms or negative affects to the patient don’t make themselves known until quite a bit later. In situations such as this, the patient isn’t necessarily held to the state statute of limitations because they were not aware of the incident and subsequent damages until after or well into the allotted time frame. States typically still put a cap on the length of time that a patient is allowed to file a lawsuit to prevent frivolous claims.
It’s important that you not rely on the possibility of falling back on the discovery rule. It’s much more difficult to prove and can make your case that much harder to win. Your best bet is always to act quickly and file your claim well within the medical malpractice statute of limitations; the closer to the incident that you begin legal action the better. Remember, the clock starts ticking almost immediately, as soon as the negligence or injury occurs, so don’t delay in taking action.
Knowing your rights is crucial in being successful in a medical malpractice suit, so that’s why it’s good to speak with a lawyer who specializes in negligence cases. He or she will know the law in your state and be able to explain your options and rights to you so that you fully understand and are prepared should you end up in court over the matter. Your attorney will closely examine your case and determine whether you meet the medical malpractice statute of limitations, and if not, whether you meet the criteria for the discovery rule.
The bottom line is when it comes to medical negligence time isn’t necessarily on your side. You must be diligent and fully aware of how the law works in your state so that you act well within the medical malpractice statute of limitations in order to be successful in your claim.