Is There a Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims?

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims?

As a patient going to a hospital or medical facility, you have the right to expect adequate care from trained professionals and in a clean environment. When you are not provided reasonable care and respect, and those mistakes cause you to suffer an injury or illness, it could constitute medical malpractice. To get fair compensation for harm caused through medical malpractice, you will need to file an injury claim – and it must be done within a certain amount of time.

In Maryland, there is a five-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, starting on the day the medical error occurred. If the harm caused through medical negligence is not immediately noticeable under reasonable circumstances, then the statute of limitations changes to three years from the date the mistake was discovered. Judges overseeing a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit will always use whichever statute of limitations will expire first if both can apply.

Why is There a Shorter Statute of Limitations?

It might seem unusual to think that a serious injury or illness could arise out of medical malpractice and go unnoticed at first, but this situation unfolds all of the time. Many patients suffer from mysterious symptoms for years before they or another medical professional link the symptoms to a previous medical error. The three-year statute of limitations will begin on the day that the connection was made between the symptoms and the medical malpractice, even if that connection is made after the five years passes since the mistake.

For example, a patient undergoes a routine surgery that seems to go well. However, they start to feel strange numbness in their right hand from time to time. They think it is a new problem and try to ignore it. After several years, the numbness becomes so frequent and severe that it is debilitating. After going to the doctor again, advanced imaging techniques reveal that a nerve has been cut, most likely due to the surgery years ago. The patient’s medical malpractice statute of limitations should begin on the date of diagnosis that linked the nerve damage to the numbness, not on the actual date of the erroneous surgery because they reasonably had no reason to suspect that the two were connected.

What Happens When the Statute Expires?

An expired statute of limitations is a serious issue for the plaintiff and a windfall for the defendant. When the statute of limitations expires for a medical malpractice claim, the defendant can ask the court to dismiss any claim filed against them in the future. Or the court might notice the statute is expired when the claim is filed and reject it before even notifying the defendant of the legal action.

In other words, an expired statute of limitations is effectively an instant loss for a claim, regardless of how convincing the evidence of wrongdoing and liability might be. For this reason alone, you will want to get your case moving sooner than later. If you work with a medical malpractice attorney, then they can file your claim before the statute of limitations expires, even if they are not quite done building your case. This strategy validates your claim before the time limit ends without rushing.

Can a Statute of Limitations Be Extended?

You might be able to think of a thousand reasons why it would be fair to extend a statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim. Maybe you waited until the last day to file and your car broke down on the way to court? Or perhaps you had to spend long hours finding and investigating evidence of liability and lost track of the days?

No matter how solid you think your reasoning for an extension might be, you should know that the court will not see it the same way. Extending the statute of limitations asks a court to change established law and frustrate the medical industry, which are two things they will not want to do. In short, you should not bank your medical malpractice claim on the minuscule chance that the court will allow a medical malpractice claim extension. Instead, work with a lawyer who can make certain your claim is filed on time, no matter its complexities.

For any medical malpractice claim in Maryland, the trusted attorneys of Wilson & Parlett can be of assistance. Call (301) 231-1737 to talk with our team about your case during a no-cost case consultation.

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