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Time Limit Considerations in Medical Malpractice Claims

Have you or a loved one been injured while seeking medical care? If so, you may have a medical malpractice claim. But when should you file a lawsuit against a medical professional?

If you've been a victim of medical malpractice, you have limited time to file a cause of action. Filing a suit against a medical provider is subject to time limits. It is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible before time runs out.

This article will discuss statutes of limitations in medical malpractice. See FindLaw's Medical Malpractice section for additional articles and resources. At its core, medical malpractice law seeks to compensate victims when a health care provider makes a medical error and causes injury to a patient.

What Are Statutes of Limitation?

In medical malpractice law, there is a time limit to file a lawsuit. This filing deadline is called the statute of limitations. This is the amount of time a patient has to file a lawsuit.

The statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits varies by state. Many states have a one- to three-year statute of limitations. For example, Florida has a two-year statute of limitations for medical negligence.

If you want to sue for medical malpractice in Florida, you have two years to file a lawsuit from the time the injury was discovered or should have been discovered by due diligence. You cannot file a lawsuit for medical malpractice against a health care provider after two years unless there are exceptions that sometimes will stop the clock on the statute of limitations. It is best to contact an attorney to understand all of your options.


Filing a lawsuit in court stops the statute of limitations clock. This action is called tolling. Tolling freezes the statute of limitations. The parties then go through the litigation process.

Cases can take years to settle. The discovery process can take months and be costly. Once the court sets a case for trial, it could take another year to go to trial. Tolling ensures that a patient's case is not dismissed because litigation takes too long. Filing the lawsuit stops the clock.

When Does the Clock Start in a Medical Malpractice Case?

It depends on the state. The clock might start when an injury occurs or when medical treatment ends.

In some states, the "discovery rule" can extend the statute of limitations. This means the statute of limitations begins when the patient discovers or should have discovered their injury.

The Discovery Rule

In general, the discovery rule allows the clock on the statute of limitations to start running on the date the injury was discovered.

For example, a foreign object is left in the body after surgery. It is not detected until some years after the medical procedure. It causes harm and is discovered during an imaging test or subsequent surgery.

The statute of limitations clock would not start when the foreign object was left behind. The discovery date would begin when you knew or should have known about the injury.

Save Your Medical Malpractice Claim

Medical malpractice statutes of limitations are often shorter than personal injury cases. Even if you may not be interested in filing a lawsuit, it is essential to preserve your claim. An experienced attorney can take action to protect your potential claim.

Wrongful Death and the Statute of Limitations

A medical malpractice case becomes complicated when an injured patient dies. First, courts must decide whether a wrongful death or medical malpractice statute of limitations applies.

Next, the court must determine when the clock starts running for the statute of limitations. Some courts may decide the clock starts when:

  • The patient died
  • The action that caused the patient's death occurred (i.e., medical error or malpractice)
  • The patient discovered an injury such as a surgical error or foreign object
  • The patient should have discovered the injury
  • The last medical treatment occurred

An experienced medical malpractice attorney will explain your legal rights. They will evaluate your case to determine which type of case you should file.

Get a Legal Case Evaluation of Your Claim

State laws set the statute of limitations (time limits) for when a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed in court. It's important to speak with an attorney to understand the time limits for your state.

A medical malpractice lawyer will be able to evaluate your case. They can help determine if you were a victim of medical negligence. They will know whether the medical professional fell below the standard of care. Talk to a medical malpractice attorney near you for legal advice.

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