In filing lawsuits of any type, there is a standard statute of limitation or the time frame required to file a case in court. This statute of limitation, however, varies from state to state. It can range from as short as six months to as long as four years.
In the area of medical malpractice, this timeframe pertains to the period starting at the instance the injury took place or when it was discovered until the case is filed. Since this deadline exists, it is of utmost importance then for patients to consult with their medical malpractice attorney to be properly guided on the right legal steps to take. No time should be wasted because once a case is not filed within the required period, the person or facility being charged with misconduct can go scot free. In other words, the case will just be dismissed by the court.
In recent years, though, there have been campaigns going on in some states in the U.S. to extend the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. Just this June 2009, a group of cancer patients and victims as well as their families in New York called on their representatives to revise the malpractice laws particularly on the time frame needed to file a lawsuit. The group members pointed out that patients should be given more time to file lawsuits concerning medical malpractice. They specifically cited to change the current statute of limitations of two and a half years and to consider the start date from the date the injury was discovered and not from the time the malpractice occurred.
In some states, medical malpractice laws consider certain instances that can possibly extend the statute of limitations from the usual time frame. In Tennessee, for example, there are two exceptions to the rule. One is known as fraudulent concealment wherein the defendant or the wrongdoer was found to have kept vital facts either through his words or actions. The other situation that can merit an extension of the deadline of filing a case is when a physician who performed surgery accidentally left an instrument or any foreign object in the patient’s body. In both instances, the statute of limitation can be extended to another year.
It is crucial, therefore, for complainants to act immediately and consult a medical malpractice lawyer upon discovery of their injury and negligent conduct of a physician or health care facility. The law requires that a notice must be provided to the defendant at least 60 days before the filing of the lawsuit. The notice must bear the names and addresses of the defendants although changes proposed earlier called for the inclusion of the patient name, claimant authorized by the patient as well as the name and address of the attorney sending the notice, among others.
For patients who may not be able to personally follow up their complaint to their medical malpractice lawyer due to physical disability, they can authorize a representative who can process their requirements and work closely with their legal counsel as much as possible. Remember that prompt action is vital when you are planning to sue a physician or hospital for medical malpractice.