One of the trickiest problems with taking action when you’ve been wronged is learning about the injury later in life. In cases such as medical malpractice and wrongful death, it isn’t uncommon for years to pass before a problem is known.
While every case is going to be different and no specific time can be guaranteed, there are rules to how long problems usually take to surface.
This guide will go through the factors that influence the length of a trial and prime you on what to expect when pursuing a medical malpractice claim.
Statute of Limitations
The most important thing to understand in any case is the statute of limitations. How long after an incident can you successfully pursue a case?
Under most tort statutes you only have three years from the original incident date to begin. This seems like ample time for many types of injuries, but malpractice is the type of event that can take time to present itself.
In Maryland, a continuous treatment rule exists which extends this timeline somewhat. Under this rule, if a patient receives continuous treatment from a physician or institution, a case can be filed from the time you become aware of the problem.
The Discovery Rule in Maryland complicates this timeline. As the name implies, there is leeway given to the process of investigating an injury. Unfortunately, the rule restricts the definition of knowledge in such a way that it often costs an injured party time.
Instead of starting the three-year statute of limitations from when you discover that malpractice has taken place, it starts the timer from when you should have started an investigation. This translates to the first signs of a problem, which can be difficult to see during a recovery.
Pain is pain, and pain from the original cause to see a doctor is hard to separate from pain caused by a mistake during treatment.
To combat this confusion, general practice assigns a total of five years from the inciting incident or three years from knowledge of the problem, whichever duration is shorter.
Some variations exist to the above rules. One in particular concerns the age of the patient. For children under the age of 11, the limitation doesn’t start (3 or 5 years) until the patient reaches 11. This matters because some problems may not be obvious in a child, whose still developing body and underdevelopment may mask effects.
Another common exception is children under age 16. This comes into play if an injury effects hormonal imbalances or reproductive systems, can’t be determined until after puberty.
Limitations on the Discovery Rule matter in children as well. A child doesn’t always have the experience or insight to explain how something feels off. Without a history to go by, they may not understand that anything is amiss to get an investigation into a problem started.
In these cases, knowledge is reserved until competency is expected.
With a specific set of rules limiting how long you have to file a medical malpractice suit; it behooves you to reach out if you suspect an issue. Getting started on inquiries early preserves your rights and leads to better outcomes for the injured.
Contact us today to learn more about malpractice issues in your area. We’re here to help.