Statute Of Limitations On Medical Malpractice
30 November 2015

What Is The Statute Of Limitations On Medical Malpractice?

The process of filing a lawsuit is governed by a strict time limit, known as a “statute of limitations” in legal contexts. These legal deadlines can vary depending on the way you were hurt and, in many cases, the nature of your injuries, but they’re no more complicated than in the area of medical malpractice.

Every State’s Medical Malpractice Statute Of Limitations patient lying in bed

Since states decide the statute of limitations on medical malpractice, not the federal government, you’ll have to check the laws where you live. But check them quickly; if the statute runs out for your injury, you won’t be able to file a lawsuit.

In medical malpractice lawsuits, the clock usually begins ticking when a doctor or other medical professional commits a negligent act (or omission, a failure to act) that results in harm to their patient. Since some instances of malpractice, like a cancer misdiagnosis, only become apparent over time, many states have instituted a “discovery rule” that delays the clock until a patient learns of their injury or should have learned about it. Regardless of the discovery rule, most states also set a hard limit, a “statute of repose,” beyond which patients can’t file lawsuits, even if there was no reasonable way for them to discovery their injury.

Some states even “bundle” the normal statute of limitations with a discovery rule, but we’ll cover all of these nuances in our guide. To jump directly to your home state, follow a link below:

Alabama

In Alabama, patients have 2 years after the date of a malpractice event to file their lawsuit. A state discovery rule adds a little time to that limit, but not much. Plaintiffs have only 6 months from the date they discovered or should have discovered possible malpractice to file suit.

In any event, Alabama’s statute of repose makes any claims filed 4 years after the date of malpractice invalid.

Alaska

Alaska’s normal statute of limitations on medical malpractice is 2 years, but a discovery rule means that patients unable to immediately discover their doctor’s negligence have 2 years from the date they learn of it.

If a child under the age of 8 becomes the victim of malpractice, the child – or parents filing on the child’s behalf – the state’s statute of limitations does not begin running until the child turns 8.

Alaska’s statute of repose says that no medical malpractice claims can be filed more than 10 years after a doctor’s mistake causes harm, unless the malpractice was intentional, intentionally concealed or constitutes gross negligence. For cases in which a foreign object is discovered in a patient’s body, the 10 year time limit does not start running until the object is discovered.

Arizona

Patients injured in Arizona have 2 years from the date of malpractice to bring their claim, or 2 years from the date they learn or should have learned of the malpractice.

Arkansas

Arkansas has fairly strict medical malpractice laws. With a normal statute of limitations of 2 years, the state only extends the protection of a discovery rule to patients who learn that a foreign object was left inside their bodies. In that case, plaintiffs have up to 1 year after their discovery of the foreign object to file suit.

California

California’s malpractice laws combine the normal statute of limitations with a discovery rule. Patients have 1 year after they discover or reasonably should have discovered evidence of malpractice, or within 3 years of the date of injury to file a lawsuit, whichever date comes first.

The state’s statute of repose invalidates all claims filed longer than 3 years after the date of a doctor’s negligence, discovery or not. There’s only one exception to this strict deadline – cases in which a foreign object was left inside a patient’s body. Patients have 1 year after they discover the foreign object to file a malpractice lawsuit.

Colorado

In Colorado, most medical malpractice lawsuits are limited by a statute of limitations of 2 years. The state extends this deadline with a discovery rule of 2 years, but restricts all claims to within 3 years of the date of actual malpractice.

There are several exceptions to this strict 3 year deadline:

  1. the case involves fraud or concealment by the defendant
  2. a surgical instrument or other foreign object was left inside the patient’s body
  3. the patient could not have discovered the malpractice event or their own injuries even through use of “reasonable diligence”

Lawsuits filed on behalf of children injured before turning 6 must be filed before the child turns 8.

Connecticut

Connecticut’s regular statute of limitations is 2 years. Patients who couldn’t reasonably be expected to learn of malpractice until later have 2 years from the date of discovery.

A statute of repose of 3 years means that all lawsuits filed more than 3 years after the actual date of malpractice will likely be thrown out.

Delaware

Delaware enforces a general medical malpractice statute of limitations of 2 years. Where an injury “was unknown to [the patient] and could not in the exercise of reasonable diligence have been discovered,” the patient may be granted 3 years from the date of malpractice to file suit. Delaware also has a special rule that could “toll” the statute of limitations for up to 90 days if a patient sends a “Notice of Intent to Investigate” to every potential defendant in the case.

Florida

Florida only explicitly imposes a discovery rule of 2 years on medical malpractice lawsuits. In other words, you have 2 years from the day you learned or should have learned of the harm caused by a doctor’s negligence to file suit, whether you learn the day of the actual malpractice or later. But a strict statute of repose invalidates all claims filed more than 4 years after the malpractice event occurred. An exception to this strict 4 year deadline may exist for cases involving fraud, or if the victim of malpractice was under the age 8 at the time of medical negligence. Cases involving minors who were harmed before the age of 8 must be filed before the child’s 8th birthday.

Georgia

Georgia has a normal statute of limitations of 2 years. A 5 year statue of repose essentially extends that deadline another 3 years for patients who only discover the malpractice later.

The state also provides an explicit discovery rule of 1 year for cases in which a foreign object is left inside a patient, whether the foreign object is discovered 2 years after a surgery or 60 years after.

Hawaii

Hawaii doesn’t concern itself with a normal statute of limitations; the state only imposes a discovery rule of 2 years. But a 6 year statute of repose invalidates lawsuits filed more than 6 years after the malpractice occurred. This 6 year deadline, while strict, may be “tolled” if the defendant is aware of, but fails to disclose, an act, error or omission related to the medical malpractice event.

Idaho

In Idaho, patients have within 2 years after a malpractice event to file suit. The only exception to that is for cases in which a foreign object is found inside a patient’s body or a doctor actively concealed malpractice from a patient. In those cases, patients have up to 2 years from the date of discovery – or the date when they should have discovered – the malpractice to file their claim.

Illinois

Patients in Illinois have up to 2 years after they discover, or should have discovered, an injury caused by malpractice to file a lawsuit. The state’s statute of repose allows only claims that are filed within 4 years of the date of actual negligence.

Where the victim of malpractice was under the age of 18 at the time of a doctor’s negligence, Illinois allows up to 8 years after the date of malpractice to file suit, but no case can be filed after the victim has turned 22.

Indiana

Indiana has a normal statute of limitations of 2 years, and also allows patients up to 2 years after they discover or should have discovered the malpractice to file a claim. In Indiana, the majority of medical malpractice claims are first reviewed for merit by a medical review panel. Filing a “proposed complaint” with the medical review panel can, for some cases, “toll” the statute of limitations for up to 90 days.

Patients who were under 6 years old at the time of a malpractice event have until they turn 8 to file a lawsuit.

Iowa

In Iowa, patients generally have 2 years from the date of malpractice to file a lawsuit. Alternatively, patients have 2 years from the date they learn or should have learned of a doctor’s mistake, but a statute of repose limits all lawsuits to within 6 years of the malpractice event. An exception to the 6 year deadline may exist for cases in which a foreign object was left inside a patient’s body.

Kansas

Kansas has set out a normal statute of limitations of 2 years. The state’s discovery rule allows patients who could not have learned of their physician’s negligence up to 2 years after the date of discovery to file suit. A strict statute of repose limits all malpractice lawsuits to within 4 years after the actual date of negligence.

Kentucky

Kentucky doesn’t have a normal statute of limitations, just a discovery rule of up to 1 year. While a statute of repose on the books limits all lawsuits to within 5 years of malpractice, several state courts have ruled that law unconstitutional, leaving the absolute time limit in Kentucky up in the air for now.

Louisiana

Louisiana’s statute of limitations on medical malpractice is set at 1 year after the actual date of a doctor’s negligence. A 1 year discovery rule could extend that time limit for some patients, but not past 3 years.

Maine

In Maine, patients have within 3 years of malpractice to file a lawsuit. There’s also a discovery rule, but it only applies to cases where a patient discovers that a foreign object was left inside their body.

Maine has a special statute of limitations for patients who were minors when they were injured by malpractice. These patients may have up to 6 years after the date of malpractice to file suit, or 3 years after they reach the age of majority, whichever date comes first.

Maryland

Maryland’s normal statute of limitations is relatively generous. Patients have up to 5 years after malpractice to file their claim, or 3 years after their injury was discovered, whichever comes first.

Massachusetts

Patients in Massachusetts normally have 3 years to file suit after a malpractice event. The state’s discovery rule gives you up to 3 years from the date you learned or could have learned about the injury, but a statute of repose sets a hard limit of 7 years. There’s an exception to this strict deadline of 7 years, but it only applies to cases in which a foreign object is discovered inside a patient’s body.

Michigan

In Michigan, most patients’ lawsuits will be governed by a 2 year statute of limitations, which begins on the date of actual malpractice. For patients who were unaware of their doctor’s negligence immediately, a discovery rule gives an extra six months, but no claims can be filed more than 6 years after the malpractice occurred. Michigan’s laws outline only two exceptions to this strict 6 year deadline:

  1. cases in which the defendant fraudulently concealed their malpractice
  2. cases in which a patient suffered “permanent loss of or damage to a reproductive organ resulting in the inability to procreate”

Minnesota

Minnesota gives all patients up to 4 years after the date of alleged malpractice to file a lawsuit. An exception to this rule may exist for patients who were injured by a doctor’s negligence under the age of 18. In these cases, the 4 year statute of limitations does not begin running until the victim turns 18. In no case can the statute be extended more than 7 years, or more than 1 year after the victim’s 18th birthday.

Mississippi

In Mississippi, most patients will have up to 2 years after the date of malpractice to file suit. People who couldn’t reasonably be expected to learn of their doctor’s mistake earlier have up to 2 years from when they discover the negligence. No claims, however, can be filed more than 7 years after the malpractice event occurred, unless a foreign object was discovered inside a patient’s body.

A separate statute allows family members to file wrongful death claims up to 3 years from the death of a loved one caused by medical malpractice.

Missouri

In most cases, Missouri patients will have up to 2 years from the malpractice event to file suit in a state court. Children injured before reaching the age of 18 have until their 20th birthday to file a malpractice lawsuit, or have a lawsuit filed on their behalf.

There are, however, several exceptions to this general 2 year time limit. If a foreign object was left inside a patient’s body, the patient has 2 years from the date he or she discovered – or should reasonably have discovered – the mistake.

When a doctor negligently fails to inform a patient of medical test results, the patient has two years from the discovery of that negligence to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, or two years from the date they should have discovered the negligence, whichever comes first. This exception does not cover cases in which a doctor failed to report the results of negligently performed tests or erroneous test results. It cannot be used to bring cases involving negligent failures to inform a patient about the results of medical tests conducted more than two years before August 28, 1999.

Missouri’s “statute of repose” sets a hard limit on medical malpractice cases. Lawsuits cannot be filed for medical negligence if more than 10 years have passed since the alleged malpractice took place.

Montana

In Montana, patients have up to 3 years after the date of malpractice, or 3 years after they learned or should have learned of a malpractice event, to file a lawsuit. A statute of repose limits all claims to within 5 years of the date of actual malpractice. In some cases, the statute of limitations can be “tolled” for periods during which a defendant knew or should have known that malpractice had occurred, but failed to disclose this information to the plaintiff.

Nebraska

In Nebraska, medical malpractice lawsuits are governed by a 2 year statute of limitations. For cases in which malpractice could not have been discovered during that 2 year time period, patients may have 1 year from the date of discovering their injury – or discovering facts that would reasonably lead to discovery – to file suit. In any event, a 10 year statute of repose serves as a hard limit.

For people who suffered malpractice before turning 21, the statute of limitations does not begin running until their 21st birthday.

Nevada

Nevada patients normally have up to 3 years from the date of actual malpractice to bring their claim. The state’s 1 year discovery rule extends the deadline for patients who couldn’t have learned of their injury sooner. Exceptions to the statute of limitations may apply during periods in which the defendant knows or should know that malpractice has occurred, but fails to notify the plaintiff of this fact.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, 3 years is the normal statute of limitations on medical malpractice lawsuits. There’s also a 3 year discovery rule, for patients who could not be expected to learn of their injury and its connection to alleged malpractice sooner.

New Jersey

New Jersey allows patients up to 2 years from the date of a malpractice event to file suit. In some cases, the state’s discovery rule allows patients who could not reasonably have learned of their injury’s connection to malpractice within the standard 2 year time period an additional 2 years after their discovery to bring a lawsuit.

For injuries sustained as a result of birth-related malpractice, families may have until their child’s 13th birthday to file suit.

New Mexico

In New Mexico, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice is generally 3 years after the date of a doctor’s negligent act or omission.

While a discovery rule can add an extra 3 years for patients who only learn of their injury later, this only applies to cases that don’t involve medical professionals considered “qualified healthcare providers” under the state’s Medical Malpractice Act. “Qualified healthcare providers” pay into a liability fund administered by the state, and are essentially given a pass on New Mexico’s discovery rule for doing so.

You can search to see if your doctor is a “qualified healthcare provider” here, but you’ll have to create a free account first. This is a particularly nuanced area of New Mexico’s medical malpractice law and we suggest contacting a local attorney for help.

New York

New York’s medical malpractice statute of limitations is fairly unique, but simple to understand. Patients have up to 30 months (2.5 years) after the date of malpractice to file suit. If the malpractice event resulted in the course of medical treatment, you have 2.5 years after the end of that treatment to bring your case in state court.

There’s also a 1 year discovery rule, but it only applies to cases in which patients learn that a doctor left a foreign object inside their bodies.

North Carolina

In North Carolina, most patients have up to 3 years after malpractice occurs to file a lawsuit. In the event that you could not have learned of your injury earlier, you have 1 year after the date you discover evidence of malpractice. A statute of repose limits all claims to within 4 years of the date of malpractice.

Special limits hold for cases in which a foreign object was discovered inside a patient’s body. In these cases, a 1 year statute of limitations applies, beginning on the date that the foreign object’s existence is discovered. Foreign object malpractice cases cannot be filed longer than 10 years after the date of the underlying medical error’s occurrence.

North Dakota

Medical malpractice claims in North Dakota are governed by a 2 year statute of limitations. For patients who could not have reasonably discovered that they were injured due to malpractice, the statute of limitations may begin on the date of discovery.  However, no lawsuit can be filed more than 6 years after a malpractice event occurred.

Ohio

Ohio’s medical malpractice are strict compared to other states. Generally, patients have only 1 year after the date of a malpractice event to file suit. For cases in which a patient’s injuries, and their connection to malpractice, could not have been discovered sooner, the statute of limitations may begin running on the date of discovery. A 4 year statute of repose serves as a strict limit to this discovery rule.

Ohio is also home to a very specific rule for cases involving foreign objects found in a patient’s body. These patients may have 1 year to file suit, beginning on the date that the foreign object was discovered.

Oklahoma

Medical malpractice in Oklahoma is fairly simple. Patients have up to 2 years from the date on which they discover evidence of malpractice to file a lawsuit.

Oregon

In Oregon, patients are limited by a 2 year discovery rule, and no claim can be filed more than 5 years after a malpractice event occurs, unless a defendant used “fraud, deceit or misleading representation” to conceal the malpractice.

If the victim of malpractice was under 18 or “has a disabling mental condition that bars the person from comprehending rights that the person is otherwise bound to know,” the statute of limitations can be “tolled” for up to 5 years, or for 1 year after the person’s 18th birthday or their mental disability ends, whichever date comes first.

For wrongful death claims, families have 3 years to file suit, beginning either at the date of initial injury, discovery of malpractice or a loved one’s death. These lawsuits are also bound by the state’s 5 year statute of repose, which begins from the date of actual injury.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations on medical malpractice gives patients 2 years from the date of malpractice – or the date on which they learned or should have learned of their injury – to file suit. A 7 year statute of repose means lawsuits filed more than 7 years after the date of actual malpractice will likely be thrown out.

The state restricts wrongful death claims arising out of medical malpractice to 2 years, beginning on the date of a loved one’s death.

Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, state law says patients must file a lawsuit within 3 years of the date of a malpractice event. The deadline could be extended, since Rhode Island’s discovery rule allows an extra 3 years from the time when a patient learned or should have learned of their injury in the event that a patient could not have learned that their injuries were caused by malpractice earlier.

South Carolina

The statute of limitations on medical malpractice in South Carolina is 3 years, beginning on the date of malpractice or on the date when a patient discovered or should have discovered evidence of a doctor’s negligence. Claims are governed by a hard limit of 6 years after the date of actual malpractice.

An exception may apply to cases in which a foreign object was inadvertently, accidentally or unintentionally left inside a patient’s body. In these cases, patients have within 2 years

South Dakota

In South Dakota, patients have only 2 years from the date of malpractice to file a lawsuit.

Tennessee

Tennessee uses a statute of limitations of 1 year for medical malpractice lawsuits, beginning on the date of malpractice or, in some cases, when a patient discovered that their injuries were connected to malpractice. The state limits all lawsuits to within 3 years of the date of malpractice. State courts have made exceptions for cases involving foreign objects left behind in patients’ bodies after surgery and cases in which a defendant fraudulently concealed malpractice from a patient.

Texas

Texas patients have 2 years after the date of malpractice to bring a claim, or 2 years after the end of a continuous treatment that was the result of malpractice. In either case, a state statute of repose limits all filings to within 10 years of the date of a malpractice event.

For children who are injured under the age of 12, Texas allows until the child turns 14 to file suit.

Utah

Utah gives patients up to 2 years to file suit, beginning on the day they learned or should have learned about their injury. The state’s statute of repose says that no claims are valid more than 4 years after the date of malpractice, unless:

  • a foreign object was left inside a patient’s body or
  • the defendant fraudulently concealed the malpractice

In those cases, patients have up to 1 year from the date on which they discover the malpractice to file suit.

The state’s 4 year deadline applies to wrongful death lawsuits, too, even though Utah has laws describing different time limits for wrongful death claims in other areas of personal injury law.

Vermont

In Vermont, patients generally have 3 years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, beginning on the date of malpractice. That limit becomes 2 years for patients who couldn’t have learned of their injury during the initial 3 year time period. In both cases, a claim can’t be filed more than 7 years after a doctor’s negligent act, unless a foreign object was left inside a patient’s body or the malpractice event was fraudulently concealed by a healthcare provider.

Virginia

Patients in Virginia generally have 2 years from the date of malpractice to file a lawsuit. Exceptions to this rule include cases in which:

  • a foreign object was left inside a patient’s body
  • “fraud, concealment or intentional misrepresentation prevented discovery of the injury within the two-year period”

In these cases, patients have up to 1 year from the date that the injury was – or should have been – discovered to file their lawsuit.

Virginia is one of the only states to have a specific statute of limitations for cases involving a cancer misdiagnosis or, as the state’s law describes, “negligent failure to diagnose a malignant tumor.” In this context, the statute of limitations becomes 1 year after a patient receives the correct diagnosis from a healthcare provider.

In any event, Virginia’s “statute of repose” limits the filing of all medical malpractice lawsuits to within 10 years after the actual date of malpractice. There’s only one exception to this strict deadline – cases involving patients under a legal disability (being a minor or having a legally-recognized mental disability, for example) at the time of the malpractice, if that disability persists after the 10 year time period.

Washington

Washington allows patients 3 years from the date of malpractice to file a lawsuit, although the state’s 1 year discovery rule may extend that deadline for people who could not reasonably have discovered their injuries during the 3 year time period.

The state’s statute of repose serves as a hard limit, and most cases filed 8 years after the malpractice event occurred will not be recognized by Washington’s courts. Exceptions to this strict deadline may apply for cases involving foreign objects that were left inside a patient’s body or when a malpractice event was intentionally concealed through fraud. In those situations, patients may have 1 year after they actually become aware of their injuries to file a case.

West Virginia

West Virginia gives patients up to 2 years from the date of malpractice, or 2 years from when a patient learned or should have learned of their injury to file suit, whichever date comes later. The state’s statute of repose limits all cases – regardless of the discovery rule – to within 10 years of the actual date of the malpractice event. Additionally, the statute of limitations may be “tolled” during periods in which the defendant “committed fraud or collusion by concealing or misrepresenting material facts about the injury.”

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, injured patients have up to 3 years from the date of a malpractice event to bring their claim. For patients who could only have learned of their injury later, a 1 year discovery rule may apply. Note that a 5 year statute of repose acts as an ultimate limit, which begins on the date of actual malpractice. Wisconsin’s courts have been known to extend that deadline further for patients who could not have reasonably discovered their injury sooner.

Cases involving foreign objects, along with ones in which a healthcare provider concealed malpractice, are governed by special time limits. In these cases, patients have up to 1 year from the date on which malpractice is discovered – or should have been discovered through the exercise of reasonable diligence – to file suit.

Wyoming

Medical malpractice in Wyoming is governed by a 2 year statute of limitations, but the state’s 2 year discovery rule – which applies to people who could not reasonably have discovered their injuries, “despite the exercise of due diligence” – allows some patients to file suit later. In fact, Wyoming’s laws say that if a malpractice event was not discovered until some date during the second year of the state’s normal 2 year time limit, the period in which lawsuits can be filed is extended by 6 months.

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