What is the Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice?

Posted in: Medical Malpractice | Apr 24,2023

Time is of the essence when taking action in any legal proceedings. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system’s complex inner workings can often be slow-moving. Evidence can be misplaced, and memories fade over time. When filing a medical malpractice case, expediency is especially critical as claims must be pursued before the statute of limitations on medical malpractice runs out. This blog post will guide you through the key details of statute of limitation laws affecting medical malpractice settlements. 

It’s important to remember that every medical malpractice case is different. A host of unique variables can affect a case’s validity or chances of success in securing a settlement and justice for victims and their families. Suing for medical negligence and malpractice can be a daunting experience, full of complicated rules and specific procedures that must be closely followed, and it’s strongly advised that you consult with experienced attorneys who can help guide you through the legal process.

Medical Malpractice Time Limits

Laws and lengths of the statutes of limitations for medical malpractice vary from state to state, ranging from one year to five years. Indiana is among the majority of states that have set its statute of limitations for medical malpractice at two years from the date the injury or negligence occurred.

Part of the rationale behind shorter statutes is so that other, unrelated medical conditions cannot be incorrectly blamed on an innocent healthcare provider years later. While some worthy and legitimate claims have unfortunately been kept out of court due to not being filed within the two-year limit, there are several exceptions and applicable rules for instances where issues may take years to come to light. 

Exceptions to Statute of Limitations

Children Under Age 6

The first exception is written directly into Section 34-18-7-1 of the Indiana Code, which introduces the state’s medical malpractice statute of limitations.

If the victim of the alleged negligence and malpractice is a child under the age of 6, their family has until the child’s eighth birthday to file a claim. This is helpful for cases involving birth-related injuries, for which signs and symptoms of malpractice may not become evident until the child reaches (or fails to reach) various developmental milestones. 

Delayed Discovery of Injuries

If a negligent misdiagnosis leads to a progression of a condition with delayed noticeable symptoms or an illness with a long latency period, a victim may not even know about the medical malpractice they’ve experienced until after the two-year statute of limitations has expired.

Indiana and many other state courts apply a statute of limitations discovery rule for such cases. Indiana courts have ruled that it would violate the state’s constitution to restrict lawsuits for being too late from patients who didn’t discover injuries stemming from medical negligence until after the two-year deadline. 

Essentially, discovery rules delay the start of the hypothetical “clock” for the statute of limitations from when the alleged negligence occurred to when the patient discovered—or reasonably should have discovered—the injuries or condition resulting from alleged medical malpractice.

Extensions During Medical Review

If you are seeking more than $15,000 in damages, Indiana is among the many states that require injured patients to show proof of medical malpractice at the outset of the lawsuit process. A complaint must be properly filed with the Indiana Department of Insurance before the two-year medical malpractice statute of limitations expires. This filing leads to a review by a medical review panel.

The medical review process is designed to help establish the validity of a patient’s negligence and malpractice claims and keep frivolous cases out of court. While initial complaint filing must occur within two years of discovering the malpractice results, the medical review process pauses the statute of limitations until the panel issues an opinion. 

The panel will issue their opinion within 30 days of reviewing all submitted evidence from the plaintiff and defendants. The malpractice statute of limitations is delayed for 90 days after the panel’s opinion is delivered, during which time the claimant must decide whether or not to proceed with filing their lawsuit. 

While the panel’s opinion cannot prevent a plaintiff from moving forward with a lawsuit, their review can be admitted as evidence, and the likelihood of successfully proving malpractice at trial is significantly lessened without their initial approval. 

Cases seeking damages of less than $15,000 aren’t required to undergo the medical review panel process. If, during the course of the lawsuit, however, it’s discovered that your injuries or condition are more serious and requested damages will exceed $15,000, you may ask to dismiss your case without prejudice. You can refile through the medical review panel process. This unique instance adds 180 days to the case’s statute of limitations deadline.

Can You Sue for Medical Negligence and Malpractice? Talk to Montross Miller

If you believe you or a family member have been harmed by a medical professional’s negligence, it’s critical to reach out to a qualified medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Time is of the essence, and promptly pursuing a claim ensures the maximum opportunity for procuring evidence or reliable witness statements. 
The Montross Miller team draws on more than 40 years of experience guiding people through the intricate complexities of medical malpractice cases. Our attorneys are committed to helping you find a path forward, beginning with a free and confidential case evaluation. Contact us to get started.