In Georgia, the statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases is normally two years from the date of injury or death. This means that you have until the second anniversary of the date that you were harmed by a medical professional to file a lawsuit in pursuit of compensation.
A "statute of limitations" is a law which sets a limited legal window of opportunity during which an injured party has the opportunity to file a lawsuit. If a claim is not filed during this window of time, the victim loses his or her right to pursue legal action. This is a critical factor of every case and must be considered before a lawsuit is filed.
Georgia law allows any individual who has been injured by the negligence of a medical professional to file a medical malpractice claim for monetary damages as compensation for the injuries that resulted as long as they are within this statute of limitations. While two years is the standard time limit, certain circumstances can arise which can extend this statute of limitations further.
There are different variables that may affect how large or small this window of time is, and this is one of the main reasons why you should contact an Atlanta medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Generally speaking, the victims of medical malpractice have two years to file a claim from the time that the malpractice occurred or the time that the injury should have been reasonably discovered. For example, if you suffered a brain injury from a surgery conducted over a year ago, you may not start to notice that an injury has occurred until symptoms start to appear. Your time period will not begin until it becomes apparent that an injury has occurred. If you have lost a loved one to a wrongful death at the hands of a medical professional, you will only have two years from the date of the death to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Georgia's statute of repose further limits a patient's ability to file a malpractice claim against a medical professional. According to this statute, the injured patient has a maximum of five years to file a lawsuit after the act that caused the injury occurred. Even if the injury is not discovered until a later time, a lawsuit will not be valid because of the statute of repose.
While similar to a statute of limitations, a statute of repose works works in tandem with discovery or "tolling" rules and sets a broader, more strictly-enforced filing deadline that encompasses situations where a patient could not have reasonably discovered that they were harmed and / or had a right to take legal action.
Sadly, there are many cases of medical malpractice that involve minors. From birth injuries to pediatric meningitis and others, the negligence of a medical professional can leave a lasting impact on an infant's life. As these injuries can take a while to appear, the statute of limitations will not start running before a minor's seventh birthday. The statute of repose will not begin until the minor turns ten.
Determining the exact amount of time that one has to file a lawsuit can be particularly complex, but there are certain circumstances that can reduce or extend the normal time period allowed. For example, surgical malpractice claims for retained foreign objects like surgical sponges may be brought at any time within one year of discovering the issue. If you are unable to argue that your case involved late discovery, you may also be able to avoid the strict timeline of the statute of limitations by arguing that the statute has been "tolled". This means that something has stopped the statute from running for a period of time. Common reasons for tolling a statute of limitations include the defendant's bankruptcy and the mental incompetence of the victim. To learn more about the timeline that applies for your specific case, do not hesitate to call an Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer at our firm.