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

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Question:

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

Answer:

We’ll get to Hawaii’s specific law after a quick refresher course, for those who aren’t fluent in “legalese.” A statute of limitations is a state law that sets a strict limit on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after you have suffered some type of loss or injury. There are different deadlines depending on the kind of lawsuit you want to file. If you try to file your lawsuit after the statutory deadline has passed, the court will almost certainly dismiss it. That’s what makes it so crucial to pay attention to and abide by these deadlines.

In Hawaii, the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit is codified at Hawaii Revised Statutes section 657-7.3, and it says no such case “shall be brought more than two years after the plaintiff discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the injury.” So, once you know or could reasonably be expected to know that you were harmed by an act of medical malpractice, the clock starts running, and you need to get your lawsuit filed within two years.   

The Hawaii law goes on to specify that no medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed “more than six years after the date of the alleged act or omission causing the injury or death.” This is known as a “statute of repose,” and it is important in cases where a medical error occurs but harm to the patient does not manifest right away, or when medical malpractice ends up causing a patient’s death years after the treatment error occurred. For cases like these in Hawaii, even where it is clear that the patient’s death was caused by the medical error, no lawsuit can be filed if more than six years have passed since the error occurred. 

It’s important to note that this over-arching six-year time period will be “tolled” (meaning the clock will stop running) during any amount of time in which the defendant (the doctor or other care provider) knows about but fails to disclose any act, error, or omission related to the medical malpractice case.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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