If you have been injured due to the medical malpractice of a physician or other health care provider, it is essential you file your claim in Florida state court as soon as possible. This is because all civil lawsuits are subject to a “statute of limitations,” which is a time limit imposed by the state legislature. A court has no authority to hear a case once the statute of limitations expires, no matter how clear-cut the evidence may be in your favor. That is why it is important never to delay when bringing a malpractice lawsuit.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice?
Florida’s statute of limitations does require some explanation. Different types of cases have different time limits. To be sure, the statute of limitations governing actions based on negligence, such as car accidents, is four years. This means that in order to recover compensation for any damages you sustained in an accident, you would have to file a lawsuit within four years from the date of the wreck; doing so even a day late could bar you from presenting your case. Some cases have shorter time limits.
For medical malpractice, the general statute of limitations in Florida is two years. Now there is an important qualifier here. Normally a statute of limitations begins (or “tolls”) from the date of the incident giving rise to the victim’s injury. So if you are injured due to negligence while undergoing a surgical procedure, then the normal statute of limitations requires you file a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years of the date of when you knew or should have known with the act of due diligence that there was medical negligence.
Belated Discovery of Malpractice
The problem is, many cases of medical malpractice are not fully discovered until long after the original surgery or treatment. For this reason, the Florida statute of limitations may be extended to two years “from the time the incident is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence.” In other words, if you have surgery in March 2015, but you do not learn about the physician’s malpractice until October 2015, the statute of limitations in your case would run until October 2017, provided there is no way you could have reasonably learned of the physician’s malpractice at an earlier date. And in any event, a lawsuit must be filed within four years of the original incident.
Fraud or Concealment
However, the statute of limitations may be extended even further if there is evidence that “fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation of fact prevented the discovery of the injury.” For instance, if a health care provider gave you false records in an attempt to hide evidence of malpractice, you may be able file a lawsuit even more than four years after the original incident. But the statute of limitations, even with such fraud or concealment, still exists, although it may be extended up to seven years.
Injuries to Children
There is one final caveat on the statute of limitations. A claim brought on behalf of an injured child is not subject to any of the time limits discussed above, provided the lawsuit is initiated “on or before the child’s eighth birthday.” So, for example, if a child is injured due to malpractice when she is one year old, a malpractice claim could still be brought when she is seven years old, even if there was no fraud or concealment on the part of the defendant.
Get Help from a Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer
The statute of limitations is only one procedural hurdle victims need to clear when pursuing a malpractice claim. That is why you should never go into court without the assistance of an experienced Clearwater personal injury attorney. Contact the Law Office of Paul B. Genet, P.A., if you would like to speak with someone about your case right away.
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