If you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, it’s important to understand the statute of limitations. Under Florida law, the statute of limitations imposes a deadline for filing a medical malpractice case.
How long do you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida? In most cases, civil claims must be filed no more than two years from the time the plaintiff discovered the malpractice or reasonably should have discovered it.
In addition, the Florida medical malpractice statute sets a deadline of four years from the date of the alleged malpractice, regardless of when the plaintiff knew of the harm caused. Exceptions to the four-year deadline include cases of fraud or plaintiffs who are under 8 years old.
What do you need to know about complying with the statute of limitations for medical malpractice, and what steps should you take to pursue filing a claim?
Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute
Most medical malpractice lawsuits in Florida must be filed within two years of discovering any harm caused by the alleged malpractice. However, this does not mean you should wait until a year and 11 months have passed to initiate your lawsuit.
Understand that the target of your lawsuit — a doctor or hospital, for instance — and the target’s insurer will attempt to name the earliest possible date for computing the statute of limitations. You may believe you have more time than the hospital or doctor believe you have, and the court may agree with the medical provider.
In addition, medical malpractice cases require complex legal work, and the process takes time. Your lawyers will need to gather extensive medical records, and they likely will need to consult medical experts for opinions on your case. If you believe you have suffered harm due to medical malpractice, consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
Special Requirements for Medical Malpractice
The legal intricacies of medical malpractice cases become even more complex because of a number of special requirements plaintiffs must meet before filing a lawsuit. Failing to take the required steps can delay proceedings and cause you to miss the two-year statute of limitations deadline — another reason to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.
In Florida, the four-year statute of limitations from the time of the alleged malpractice is absolute. Even if you had no way of discovering the harm caused within four years, your case will be rejected if you file after that time. However, if you and your attorney discover that the medical provider concealed the alleged malpractice in some way — such as intentionally providing you with false information — you have more time.
If you decide to move forward with a medical malpractice claim, your attorney will need to officially inform the medical provider of your intent to sue. This is known as a notice of intent. The formal notification must include a legal statement (Affidavit) from a medical professional confirming the validity of your claim.
The notification begins a 90-day period in which your attorney will exchange information with the representative for the doctor, hospital, or medical provider. The parties can try to settle the claim during the 90 day period. If the medical provider decides that it does not want to settle, you still have 60 days or the remaining time under the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit.
The Fraud Exception
Florida law states that plaintiffs have an additional two years — beyond the normal two-year statute of limitations — to file a medical malpractice claim in cases of fraud. The court may extend the statute of limitations if a medical provider is found to have intentionally concealed information or misrepresented facts in a way that prevented the plaintiff from discovering the harm caused by the medical malpractice.
Even in cases of fraud, a plaintiff cannot file a lawsuit beyond seven years from the date of the alleged medical malpractice incident.
Work with an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney
The state of Florida has implemented a number of measures to protect doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers against medical malpractice lawsuits. With strict statutes of limitations in place, plaintiffs must act quickly to recover the compensation to which they are entitled. In many cases, injuries are complex and can take years to manifest.
If you believe that you or a loved one have suffered injuries due to a case of medical malpractice in Florida, an experienced attorney can assist you. Filing all legal documentation in a timely manner will play a key role in the success of your claim. For a free consultation, please contact Kaire & Heffernan, LLC.