I understand that when a loved one is hurt or killed as a result of medical negligence, a lawsuit is not the first thing a grieving family thinks of. In fact, it probably isn’t one of the top 100 things or 1000 things going through the minds of a family that is suffering.
But statutes of limitations are often looming and they aren’t always as clear as you might think. Here is a quick cheat sheet to statutes of limitation in DC, Maryland and West Virginia:
DC: 3 years from the date of negligence, unless there has been a death and then it is one year from the date of death. In cases of a minor, the statute begins to run after the 18th birthday in a non-death case.
MD: 3 years from the date of discovery of negligence or death or five years from the date of negligence, whichever is earlier. In cases of a minor, the statute begins to run after the 11th birthday.
W. Va.: 2 years from the date of negligence, discovery of negligence or date of death. For a minor (someone under 10) suit must be filed before their 12th birthday.
This is a rough guideline. In considering when a statute might bar your claim, you MUST consult a lawyer. There are exceptions to these rules, like the very unfair case of a facility that received federal funding–unbeknownst to patients–and is protected by the Federal Tort Claims Act, which has a two year statute of limitations.
Again, the point isn’t to run out and find a lawyer after tragedy. You need to take time to grieve in whatever manner is most appropriate when a loved one is lost, or to focus on getting better as quickly as possible if you have suffered medical complications.
But if you intend to seek out legal counsel, you should be aware of these dates. Lawyers need time to evaluate cases so that only meritorious claims are filed. If you go looking for assistance the week before your statute, you are not likely to find an attorney.
Take you time to grieve or get better. But if you think you should consult with a lawyer, you should do so promptly.
Both an Emory School of Law graduate and MBA graduate of Goizueta Business School at Emory, Chris Nace focuses his practice on areas of medical malpractice, drug and product liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination and other negligence and personal injury matters.