What Is the Statute of Limitations in Virginia to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Unfortunately, medical errors are prevalent in the U.S., leading to the deaths of more than 250,000 patients per year, according to some data sources. When a patient is harmed or killed due to a healthcare professional’s mistake, the patient or surviving family members may be eligible for compensation through a medical malpractice claim. At Lichtenstein Law Group PLC, our experienced attorneys can help you to understand the basics of a medical malpractice claim, including the statute of limitations that applies to these specific lawsuits, operating as a deadline by which to file suit.
What Is a Medical Malpractice Claim?
When a party causes harm to another person through an act of negligence, the injured party has a right under Virginia law to bring a personal injury claim against the negligent party. If a medical professional causes harm to someone as a result of failing to meet the medical standard of care owed to that person, it is called medical malpractice.
If you have been harmed by a doctor’s actions, you may be entitled to bring a claim for damages against that physician. This type of claim requires proof that the doctor breached the standard of care owed to you, along with proof that the breach was the proximate (direct) cause of your damages.
What Is a Statute of Limitations?
You may have the right to bring a medical malpractice claim when a doctor’s error leads to your harm. However, you are limited in the amount of time you have in which to actually file the lawsuit. This is called the statute of limitations.
Civil statutes of limitations are designed to limit the time frames in which a lawsuit may be filed, as well as to ensure that evidence does not become dated or destroyed. If no lawsuit is filed before the statute of limitations has expired, a plaintiff will lose the legal right to pursue damages (recovery).
In addition to statutes of limitations, which prevent recovery after the applicable deadline is passed, there are other laws that sometimes require legal action prior to the statute of limitations deadline. Failure to meet these requirements can also prevent recovery, so these deadlines should also be assessed by a medical malpractice attorney along with the applicable statutes of limitations.
The Statutes of Limitations for Virginia Medical Malpractice Claims
The general statute of limitations for a medical malpractice claim in Virginia is only two years from the date that the act of malpractice occurred. As explained above, sometimes legal action, including the giving of certain notices, is required as soon as six months or one year after the injury caused by medical malpractice. Failure to act as required can also bar recovery. Virginia law also has many exceptions to the general rule of a two-year statute of limitations. If an exception applies, a plaintiff may be able to bring a medical malpractice action after the two-year statute of limitations has expired.
According to the statute, the two-year limit is extended when:
- a foreign object, which has no therapeutic or diagnostic effect, is left within the patient’s body. In the event of a foreign object being left within the patient, the statute of limitations is extended one year from the date of discovery of the foreign object, rather than the date of the original surgery.
- fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation prevented discovery of the injury within the two-year window. If this type of misconduct occurs, then the statute of limitations is extended one year from the date that the injury is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.
- the claim for medical malpractice is based on the negligent failure to diagnose a malignant tumor; cancer; or an intracranial, intraspinal, or spinal schwannoma, in which case the statute of limitations is extended for one year from the date the diagnosis of the condition is communicated to the patient (up to a ten-year maximum extension). Some of these claims, however, fall under a different statute of limitations depending on when the original negligence (malpractice) occurred, and this extension may not apply.
In Virginia, medical malpractice claims involving children are also unique when it comes to statutes of limitations. The same general two-year statute of limitations applies when the patient who suffers harm is a child eight years of age or older, and the exceptions noted above apply to children. Another exception allows an extension for filing the lawsuit to the child’s tenth birthday for negligence that causes injury or death to a child under age eight years. For instance, many children suffer harm due to the negligence of medical professionals during the pregnancy or during labor and delivery. For medical malpractice that occurs during these time frames, the statute of limitations creates a deadline to file suit on or before the child’s tenth birthday.
Compensation Available in Medical Malpractice Claims
Your medical malpractice lawsuit will be allowed to proceed if your medical malpractice claim in Virginia is filed within the statute of limitations period and all required notices are timely provided. Common types of recoverable damages in a medical malpractice claim include past medical expenses, future medical expenses, rehabilitation and therapy costs, lost wages, future lost wages, pain, suffering, emotional distress, disability, and diminished quality of life. It is important to work with a law firm that will thoroughly review your case and carefully assess the amount of potential damages available to you.
Our Virginia Medical Malpractice Lawyers Are Here to Help You
At the offices of the Lichtenstein Law Group PLC, we provide free consultation to answer all of your questions about the medical malpractice claims process in Virginia, ranging from details about the statute of limitations to what types of evidence you will need to establish your case for damages. Our goal is to provide you with support, guidance, and aggressive representation throughout your medical malpractice case.
We are experienced medical malpractice lawyers who have a reputation for being tough negotiators and tough trial lawyers. To learn more about how we can serve you, please connect with us by phone or online today. We can provide a free initial consultation through our conveniently located offices in Roanoke and Charlottesville.
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John E. Lichtenstein is a founding member of Lichtenstein Law Group, PLC, with more than three decades of experience as a trial lawyer. A graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, John has successfully resolved hundreds of cases on behalf of his clients, including some of the largest jury verdicts and settlements in Virginia history. He has also served his profession, including serving as President of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association in 2015-2016 and as Chair of the Virginia State Bar Criminal Law Section in 2007-2008.