If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, you’re going through a stressful time. Whether it was a misdiagnosis, an act of negligence, a birth injury, a failure to be treated, the rippling effects of medical malpractice can take a long time to recover from, if recovery is possible at all. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t feel ready to take legal action right away. However, it is vitally important that you understand that under the law, your time to file a lawsuit is limited.
One of the most heartbreaking things we have to do at the office of Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst is to decline representation. Unfortunately, this happens frequently. Due to statute of limitations laws, a case filed after a certain time period will be considered untimely under our legal system, and you will be barred from pursuing justice. Let’s explore this rule so you can stay informed about your potential case.
What is a statute of limitations?
Sometimes known as a prescriptive period, a statute of limitations is a law that sets a maximum time period someone may take legal action in response to an event. They vary by state and by type of claim or charge. Once the time has elapsed, a case will be barred from filing.
In theory, a statute of limitations prevents the filing of a lawsuit after relevant evidence no longer exists or eyewitness testimony can no longer be considered reliable. In reality, it sometimes becomes a tool that benefits hospitals, healthcare providers, or pharmaceutical companies by preventing the injured party or their family from seeking the justice they deserve.
Either way, it’s vitally important to know that there are time limits in place that may make your pursuing legal action null and void. If you or a loved one are permanently or catastrophically injured due to the negligence of another, you should contact Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst immediately for a free consultation.
Oklahoma medical malpractice statute of limitations
In the state of Oklahoma, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice is most often two years. However, this begs the question of when the clock starts ticking. In most cases, the two years begin from the date of the incident. This is especially true when the incident is obvious to all parties involved. For instance, if a doctor performs the wrong surgical procedure on your loved one, you’ll likely know almost immediately afterward.
Some cases aren’t so cut and dry. Medical malpractice can be tricky because while some incidents are obvious, others may go undetected for a long period of time, sometimes longer than three years. If this happens to you, don’t panic! An exception exists to help.
The statute of limitations discovery rule
Most of the statute of limitations laws are hard and fast rules. However, the discovery rule might be applicable, and it might be used to preserve your rights. In the event that you don’t discover a medical malpractice injury for some time, the discovery rule might save your potential case.
Let’s say you or your loved one experiences unexplainable symptoms after a surgical procedure. You seek out answers for some time before you realize what happened: a surgical tool was left inside you or your loved one’s body when sewn up after the procedure. (Yes, this actually happens.)
In cases like the above, the two years begin from the moment a patient discovers the harmful effects of malpractice. Even if it’s been five years since the surgery, you or your loved one might still have a case.
However, the discovery rule can be struck down if a patient knew or should have known of the harm sooner had they exercised reasonable diligence. Reasonable diligence can be difficult to determine, so it’s important to seek legal consultation as quickly as possible..
Could the statute of limitations be shortened?
In some unfortunate cases, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice may be shortened. If your injury was caused by a governmental entity, a law called the Governmental Torts Claims Act (GTCA) might limit you to only one year from the date of the event that caused you harm.
Most people do not know if their provider and/or facility is subject to the GTCA or not. Therefore, to avoid being denied the right of filing a case for medical malpractice because you’ve missed the deadline, it is vital that you speak with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible after the event, so they can determine the applicable statute of limitations. .
The statute of limitations isn’t the only reason to act quickly
Two years may sound like a long time, but it can elapse quickly, especially when you’re dealing with the fallout from medical harm or injury. The best way to ensure your best chance at justice is to contact a lawyer as soon as you believe you have sustained harm due to the negligence of a medical provider. Our experienced medical malpractice team will evaluate whether or not you have a case. Keep in mind that it will take longer than you might think to investigate and prepare your case.
Additionally, the reasons for the statute of limitations’ existence still hold some water. The longer you wait to take action, the more likely it is that potential evidence will have deteriorated, been lost, or will be otherwise unsuitable for use in court.
Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst is here to stand with you
Have you sustained permanent or catastrophic harm or been permanently or catastrophically injured by medical malpractice? The office of Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst has represented numerous families in medical malpractice cases throughout Oklahoma and have achieved justice for these families who have been wronged by the healthcare industry.
Led by partner Glendell D. Nix and supported by attorneys Travis Dunn, Andy J. Campbell, and paralegal Stephanie Lassak, our medical malpractice team is passionate about justice and is ready to stand with you. We are also privileged to be supported by Jerry Wainscott, BSN, RN, Nurse Consultant to help bring a higher level of medical expertise to our cases. Contact us today for a free consultation about how we might be able to help you achieve the justice you deserve.