If you have been harmed by a medical care provider’s actions, you might be eligible for compensation. A medical malpractice lawyer can help you understand whether your injuries qualify as medical malpractice. Before you take legal action, you need to be aware of how the statute of limitations affects the time you have to act.
A medical malpractice lawyer can help to get you financial compensation after a medical injury but only if they have enough time to pursue your case.
What Is the Statute of Limitations?
When someone breaks the law, they can face criminal charges, fines, and jail time. These types of legal consequences all happen in criminal court. However, not every injury is a criminal matter.
When someone causes harm to another person that results in injury, expenses, or other significant consequences, the victim can pursue justice through civil court.
Both criminal and civil court actions have time limits placed on them. The time limit for taking legal action is called the “statute of limitations.”
If a medical provider has injured you, and you’re hoping to gain compensation, your case is a matter for a civil court. You’ll need to work with a personal injury lawyer to ensure you have grounds for a case, and you’ll need to act well before the legal time limit runs out.
What Factors Affect the Statute of Limitations Time Limit?
Statutes of limitations are different for different types of civil cases. Factors that impact the time limits include state laws and the type of case.
A medical malpractice case is one type of personal injury case, and there’s a separate statute of limitations for taking action over medical malpractice.
State laws vary regarding how long you have to take legal action over medical malpractice. Some states only allow one year, while others allow much longer periods.
Virginia allows two years from the date of the injury, although certain situations might lead to an extension of that time limit.
Are There Exceptions to the Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations?
As a general rule, a statute of limitations cannot be extended once it has passed. Many accident victims lose out on compensation they might otherwise have gained because they waited too long to contact a medical malpractice attorney.
Once the time limit runs out, there’s little a lawyer can do to help. However, a lawyer can help if your case falls under one of the situations that merit an extension of the deadline.
This practice of extending the statute of limitations is called tolling. Virginia allows tolling in a small number of situations. One case involves injuries that lead to temporary disability or incapacity. For example, if a victim’s injuries result in a coma, and they later awaken, the statute of limitations can be tolled to begin on the date they regain capacity.
Another exception is the continuing treatment rule: if you are receiving treatment from the same provider for the same condition, that may toll the statute of limitations.
Another key exception involves cases where the injury was not discovered until after the time limit has passed. In medical malpractice cases, this most frequently happens in cases involving a surgical item left inside a patient or when a healthcare provider has committed medical fraud in an attempt to hide the injury.
Can the Statute of Limitations Be Extended for Minors?
Many states allow a longer period when the victim is a minor. While some states allow tolling for minors into adulthood, others have stricter laws.
Virginia only allows the statute of limitations to be extended for minors under the age of eight. When a minor is harmed through a birth injury or another form of medical malpractice that occurs before they are eight years old, parents or guardians can file for medical malpractice until the child’s tenth birthday. Once a minor reaches the age of eight, any medical injuries are subject to the two-year time limit.
Do You Need to Contact a Lawyer to Gain Money for Medical Malpractice?
To gain compensation for medical malpractice, you need to work with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Medical malpractice is one of the most complicated types of personal injury claims, and successfully gaining compensation is highly unlikely without a lawyer’s legal expertise.
In any personal injury case, a lawyer needs to first prove that the other party’s actions meet the legal definition of negligence. Only once this is proven can they begin assessing the extent of the damage to identify a target compensation value.
Proving medical malpractice is more complicated than proving other types of personal injury. Instead of proving general negligence, a medical malpractice attorney must prove that your healthcare provider violated the professional standard of care.
A medical malpractice case can’t move forward until a lawyer has engaged a qualified medical witness to review your medical file and the facts of the case and deliver testimony under oath, confirming that your provider’s actions were negligent, given the circumstances.
How Is a Medical Malpractice Claim Affected by the Statute of Limitations?
Medical malpractice cases are complex, which means there’s a higher risk of missing the deadline if the victim doesn’t act quickly.
At an initial consultation, a medical malpractice lawyer should be able to let you know whether you have grounds for a claim. A lawyer has many steps to take if you decide to pursue a claim.
- Collecting medical records and documentation
- Securing expert testimony
- Notifying the healthcare provider of the claim
- Undergoing negotiations with the provider’s insurance company
Your lawyer will move the case to court if the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement. Each step takes time to achieve, so it is important to start the process as soon as possible.
Don’t Wait to Contact a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Medical accidents and injuries happen every day. Sometimes, they cause life-altering complications that come with high costs. When this happens to you, you should immediately contact a medical malpractice attorney to start building a case.
Missing the legal deadline is one of the most common ways clients with a case don’t receive the money owed to them over medical malpractice.
Don’t make this mistake. If you’re uncertain whether you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice, consult a medical malpractice attorney immediately.