Most injury cases have a time limit attached, and medical malpractice cases are no exception. In order to make sure that your medical malpractice case is successful, you need to follow these legal time limits. These time limits are called “statutes of limitations.” In Texas, there is a two-year time limit for cases based on surgical injuries, negligent medical care, failure to diagnose, and other medical negligence. To get your case filed, contact an experienced Dallas personal injury lawyer like those of The Queenan Law Firm, P.C.
Medical Malpractice Time Limits
According to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 74.251(a), the statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases in Texas is two years. This means that, starting on the date of your injury, you have two years to file a case. For injuries from surgery or any other day of treatment, the clock starts when you receive that injury.
Not every case has a specific date of injury. In these cases, the start date for the two-year timer is the last day of treatment. That means that for a case based on a failure to diagnose, or other ongoing care, the last day of treatment may start the timer. For a case based on a loved one’s death, this date may be earlier than the date of death.
In many cases where you instantly knew you were injured, knowing when the two-year period starts is simple enough. As long as you get the right papers to court and file your lawsuit within this two-year period, a court should hear your case. Even a year and a half after the injury, your timing is good. Discovering the cause and filing that late should still ensure your case is heard.
For children under 12 years old who are injured, the deadline may be more than two years. No matter whether the child is 11 or younger, the lawsuit must be filed by their 14th birthday. Twelve-year-old children still have two years from the date of injury to file.
Always check with an attorney about your case as soon as possible to make sure you can still meet deadlines and get your case heard.
Extending Medical Malpractice Deadlines
In some cases, you may not realize you are injured right away. It may even take years before you know that your injury was caused by medical negligence. Sometimes this is simply because we think the injury was a normal part of surgery. Other times, the doctor and other medical staff may actively hide the cause of your injury. In either case, there may be ways to extend the two-year statute of limitations.
This process of extending the time limit is called “tolling,” and there are many ways to “toll” the statute of limitations in a medical malpractice case.
One reason a court may extend your deadline to file is that you did not “discover” you were injured by medical malpractice within two years. In many cases, you may know about the injury right after your procedure or treatment, but you might not know it was caused by the doctor’s error until years later.
It is vital to talk to an attorney about your case the very day you think you might be injured. Texas’ rule for tolling the statute of limitations is confusing, even to many judges and lawyers who practice medical malpractice. In many cases, even if you did not discover your injury and its cause until after the two-year period has passed, your claim may still be time-barred.
There are only three other ways to extend the deadline in Texas:
- Incompetence – If the patient who was injured was mentally incompetent when the time limit passed, they might have a chance to file. For this to apply, the injured patient must be suffering from a continuous, uninterrupted mental incapacity throughout the whole period. Even then, some courts might deny the case.
- Minors – People who suffered from malpractice as a minor may be able to file their lawsuit during the two years after their 18th
- Concealment – If the doctor or hospital had all information of the negligence and hid it from you, you may be able to extend the deadline. Proving this kind of concealment is very difficult in Texas.
In any case, § 74.251(b) puts an absolute time limit on cases at 10 years after the negligence. This called a “statute of repose.”
Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Immediately
As soon as you think you might have been the victim of medical malpractice, contact an attorney to get your case filed. The lawyers of The Queenan Law Firm, P.C., help injured patients get the compensation they need. For a free, no obligation consultation, contact our attorneys today at (817) 476-1797.