A “statute of limitations” refers to the time that you have to file a lawsuit. You will likely lose your right to bring a case if you try to file a medical malpractice lawsuit after the statutory time expires. Since this loss means you’ll lose your ability to receive compensation for your injuries, it’s extremely important that you’re aware of how much time you have to file a malpractice action.
Statue of Limitations in a Washington Medical Malpractice Case
RCW 4.16.350 is the Washington statute that sets forth the time limit to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Under this law, you must file your malpractice case by the later of one of two dates:
- Three years after the medical negligence occurred that caused your injuries, or
- One year after you discovered or should have discovered the error or harm that caused your injury.
In terms of the latter date, please note that sometimes victims don’t know of malpractice until several years after it occurs. For example, consider the scenario where a doctor leaves a surgical sponge in a patient following an operation. Here, the patient may eventually experience harmful health conditions, but the malpractice may not be discovered until the doctor performs a second surgery.
Tolling of the Statue of Limitations
There are certain circumstances that can work to toll or suspend the running of the statute of limitations. Tolling usually takes place in instances involving either:
- Fraud, or
- The intentional concealment of evidence.
Tolling can also take place if a malpractice victim is incompetent or cannot understand the nature of the proceedings.
Reasons for a Statute of Limitations
Statutes of limitations exist out of a sense of fundamental fairness. Memories fade, evidence is inadvertently destroyed, and witnesses move away. A limitations period both:
- Encourages you to diligently pursue your claims, and
- Protects people from having to defend “stale” claims.
Statute of Repose in a Washington Medical Malpractice Case
A statute of repose also applies to medical malpractice cases. This type of statute bars you from brining a malpractice claim altogether after a certain amount of time passes. Washington State’s statue of repose is eight years after the date of the medical malpractice. This applies regardless of when you discovered or should have discovered the malpractice.
Contact Otorowski Morrow & Golden, PLLC
Please know that our firm is here to help if you suffered an injury because of a medical professional’s malpractice. Otorowski Morrow & Golden, PLLC provides free consultations to all our potential clients. The attorneys at our law firm also have over 120 years of combined experience representing injured parties in medical malpractice cases. They never back down to insurers and fight for their clients’ interests every step of the way. Do yourself a favor and contact them now for the quality legal representation you deserve.