What to Know About the Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

Anytime you visit a doctor or other medical professional, you expect that they’ll provide you with sound advice and treatment. Most of the time, that’s exactly what happens.

Sometimes, though, you get a healthcare professional who drops the ball badly out of incompetence or ignorance. Even more rarely, the healthcare pro fails because of personal circumstances impairing their judgment. When these lapses injure you, it’s medical malpractice.

Unfortunately, a medical malpractice statute of limitations can affect your ability to sue over these failures. Keep reading for what you need to know about these statutes of limitation.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

In practical terms, medical malpractice means that a healthcare professional broke in some way from the accepted standard of care. In addition, that break with accepted practice caused you some kind of injury or damage. In essence, the healthcare professional acted in a negligent way while they treated you.

What Is a Statute of Limitation?

A statute of limitation essentially puts a clock on how long you have before you can’t bring charges or file a lawsuit for something someone did.

This is a practical limitation since the courts don’t want people filing lawsuits decades after something happened. Over time, physical evidence goes missing and people’s recollections of events fade. A statute of limitations helps ensure that legal actions happen when there is still a good chance of finding evidence and talking with witnesses.

Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

There isn’t a single law that determines the statute of limitations for medical malpractice. Each state sets its own law about how long you get to file. As a general rule, most states set the deadline for between two years and six years.

That means that you should visit with a lawyer as soon as possible to review your options.


Many states now include certain exceptions in the language of medical malpractice laws. One common exception is a discovery rule. This rule helps people who don’t find out about the malpractice until after the normal deadline passes.

Under the discovery rule, you get a new deadline for filing a lawsuit based on when you find out that the malpractice occurred. It’s typically about the same amount of time you’d get to file under the standard limitation.

Some states also employ something known as a repose law. These laws put a hard limit on how long you get to file under any circumstances. Your lawyer can tell you if a repose law affects your case.

Don’t Procrastinate

If you believe you received care that qualifies as medical malpractice, don’t procrastinate. No matter how good your lawyer is, they can’t overcome a medical malpractice statute of limitations.

Make an appointment with an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice as soon as possible. They can help you determine if it is malpractice. Plus, as long as they file the suit before the clock runs out, the lawsuit can move forward.

Looking for legal tips in other areas? Check out the Law section on this site.

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