What is the Arkansas statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit?

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Question:

What is the Arkansas statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit?

Answer:

First, as a quick refresher for those whose “legalese” might be a little rusty, a statute of limitations is a law that sets a strict limit on the amount of time you have to go to court and get a civil case started. In Arkansas, if you’re bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit, that means filing the initial complaint, and within 30 days, also filing an affidavit of merit from an expert medical witness who states that there is a sound legal basis for your claim based on their review of the facts.  

The standard statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit in Arkansas can be found at Arkansas Code section 16-114-203, and it gives a prospective medical malpractice patient two years to file the lawsuit. But when does the “clock” start running?  The Arkansas statute specifically says that the “date of the accrual of the cause of action” -- meaning the start of the two-year period -- “shall be the date of the wrongful act complained of and no other time. “

So, you have very little leeway in Arkansas to “discover” that you were harmed by malpractice beyond the date on which the underlying medical error was committed.  But there is a key exception to this strict two-year deadline.

In Arkansas, “where the action is based upon the discovery of a foreign object in the body” -- such as a medical instrument or sponge -- and that object “is not discovered and could not reasonably have been discovered” within the two-year period, the lawsuit may be filed within one year from the date when the object is or should reasonably should have been discovered, whichever is earlier.

So, what if you try to file the lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has passed? You can bet that the doctor or health care facility you’re trying to sue will ask the court to dismiss the case. The court will almost certainly grant the request, and that will be the end of your lawsuit. So it’s crucial to pay attention to the Arkansas statute of limitations as it applies to your medical malpractice case.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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