Every state has rules that limit the amount of time a person has to bring a lawsuit, whether for breach of contract, losses due to personal injury, fraud, or other legal claims. This law is called a statute of limitations, and it prohibits you from suing someone if the time period related to your claim has expired. In Florida, the length of time you have to sue someone depends upon the nature of the case. There are special rules for medical malpractice cases and certain exceptions exist, which makes the law very complex. You should discuss your claim with an experienced Florida medical malpractice attorney to see how these rules apply to your situation.
General Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractices
The statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit is two years, and the clock starts running when:
- The incident giving rise to a claim occurred; OR,
- The patient discovers, or should discover through reasonable diligence, that he or she has a claim.
There could be a significant time lag between the two dates designated in the statute, such as where a patient does not discover a medical mistake until months after it occurs. For this reason, the statute does allow additional time, which cannot exceed a total of four years from the date of the actual incident.
Calculating the start date of the statute of limitations can be challenging because “the time the incident is discovered” may be open to interpretation. There can be questions of fact regarding what is necessary for a patient or other party to know of the incident.
Special Considerations on the Statute of Limitations
In some situations, the patient’s knowledge may not be the key, such as the case of a child or disabled adult. For this type of case, parent’s or guardian’s awareness of a medical mistake would be the trigger date for purposes of the statute of limitations.
In addition, there is an exception to the medical malpractice statute of limitations that may extend beyond four years. You have an additional two years from the date of discovery where fraud, concealment, or misrepresentation prevented you from finding out about the injury. However, in no event can you file a lawsuit more than seven years from the date that the incident occurred.
Tolling the Statute of Limitations
There are some scenarios where the statute of limitations stops, giving you additional time to file a claim. However, these are relatively limited in nature. If the potential defendant is absent from Florida, uses a false name to avoid service of process, or hides from service of process, this may “toll” the statute of limitations.
Schedule a Consultation with a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today
It is critical to act quickly if you are a victim of a medical error. At Piccin & Glynn, Attorneys at Law, we offer a free consultation to assess the details of your case. Please call us at 352-581-6174 or visit us online to schedule an appointment at our Ocala, FL office.