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How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?

The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III Nov. 16, 2023

Medical Malpractice Newspaper HeadlineThe clock starts ticking as soon as you realize you're the victim of a medical error, and understanding the time constraints for filing a medical malpractice claim is critical. If you believe you have been a victim of medical malpractice, timing is your compass, and taking a wrong turn could cost you your rights to compensation. As an attorney at The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III, I will assist you through the process of filing a claim and advocating for your rights. Reach out to my firm so that you can take your next steps towards justice. 

Understanding Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when healthcare professionals don't provide the standard level of care you deserve, leading to harm. Medical malpractice can occur in a variety of situations. Here are some common examples: 

  • Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis: When a doctor fails to diagnose a condition accurately and promptly, it can lead to incorrect treatment, delayed treatment, or no treatment at all, resulting in harm to the patient. 

  • Surgical Errors: These can range from operating on the wrong body part to leaving surgical instruments inside the patient's body. Such errors can cause immense harm and even death. 

  • Medication Errors: This can involve prescribing the wrong medication, incorrect dosage, or incorrect administration, leading to adverse effects on the patient. 

  • Birth Injuries: These could be caused due to negligence during pregnancy or delivery, resulting in harm to the mother, baby, or both. 

  • Anesthesia Errors: An error in administering anesthesia can lead to serious injury, brain damage, or even death. 

  • Failure to Treat: This happens when a doctor does not consider the patient's medical history or fails to provide a standard level of care, leading to worsening of the patient's condition. 

You might be wondering why there's a time limit on filing these claims. Well, it's essentially to protect your rights and preserve evidence. If you've been a victim of medical malpractice, it's crucial to file your claim as soon as possible. The sooner you act, the better your chances of getting the justice you deserve. 

Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice Claims in Washington State

In the state of Washington, the standard time limit to file a medical malpractice claim is within three years of the date when the malpractice occurred, or one year from when the injury was (or should have reasonably been) discovered, whichever period ends later. If you fail to file a lawsuit within this timeframe, your case could be dismissed, regardless of its merit. Remember, understanding your rights and the law's requirements can significantly impact your case's success.  

Circumstances that Can Extend or Shorten the Statute of Limitations

Under certain circumstances, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims may be extended or shortened. Here are a few examples: 

  • Minor Children: If the victim of medical malpractice is a minor, the statute of limitations may not begin until the child reaches the age of majority, thus potentially extending the filing period. 

  • Disability or Incapacitation: If a person becomes incapacitated or disabled at the time of the incident, the statute of limitations may be put on hold (or "tolled") until they recover or their disability ends. 

  • Fraud or Concealment: If a healthcare provider deliberately conceals his or her malpractice, the statute of limitations may not start until the malpractice has been discovered. 

  • Delayed Discovery: If the harm caused by the malpractice is not immediately noticeable, the statute of limitations may be extended to account for the time it took the patient to discover the injury. 

  • Wrongful Death: In cases of wrongful death due to medical malpractice, the statute of limitations often begins at the time of death, not when the malpractice occurred. 

  • Medical Devices or Implants: If a faulty medical device or implant causes injury, the statute may begin when the faultiness of the device is discovered, not when it was implanted. 

Remember, these are general guidelines, and the exact rules can vary by state or jurisdiction. Always consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area to understand the specific guidelines applicable to your case.  

Initiating the Claims Process

The first step in initiating a medical malpractice claim is to contact a medical malpractice attorney. Your lawyer will assist you in understanding your rights and guide you on the best course of action. Here's a general step-by-step guide to starting the claim process: 

  1. Documentation: Ensure you have all relevant medical records, bills, and any correspondence with your healthcare provider. These documents serve as crucial evidence in your case. 

  1. Seek Legal Counsel: Consult with an attorney who understands medical malpractice laws. They can provide an initial evaluation of your case and guide you on the possible outcomes. 

  1. Notice of Intent: Depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to provide the defendant with a notice of intent to file a lawsuit. Your attorney can help draft and send this notice. 

  1. Medical Review: A medical expert will review your case to determine if malpractice occurred. This step is crucial in building a strong case. 

  1. Filing a Lawsuit: If the medical expert confirms malpractice, your attorney will proceed to file a lawsuit. The legal proceedings then begin. 

Remember, every case is unique, and actual steps may vary. It's important to consult with a professional attorney who can provide you with personalized legal advice. It's your right to seek justice and compensation for any harm caused by medical malpractice. 

Securing Justice in the Face of Medical Negligence

Understanding medical malpractice and the time limits for filing a claim is crucial. Remember, it's always important to act quickly if you think you've been a victim of medical malpractice. So don't hesitate to reach out to me at The Law Office of Dan N. Fiorito III if you need any help. Based in Seattle, Washington, I serve clients throughout all of Western Washington, including the Puget Sound Area, Bellevue, Tacoma, and Everett. Let's work together to get you the justice you deserve.