What is the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice case in Rhode Island?

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Question:

What is the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice case in Rhode Island?

Answer:

Like lawmakers in a lot of states, Rhode Island legislators have passed a statute of limitations that applies specifically to medical malpractice lawsuits. First though, a quick refresher for readers whose “legalese” is a little rusty: a statute of limitations is a law that puts a firm limit on the amount of time you have to go to court and file a lawsuit after you have suffered some type of injury or loss. There are different deadlines depending on the kind of lawsuit you want to file.

Rhode Island’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits can be found at Rhode Island General Laws section  9-1-14.1, and it gives a potential medical malpractice plaintiff three years to get the case filed in the state’s civil court system.  Usually the statute of limitations starts running “from the time of the occurrence of the incident which gave rise to the action,” meaning the date on which the medical error was committed.

But Rhode Island makes an exception for cases “which could not in the exercise of reasonable diligence be discoverable at the time of the occurrence of the incident which gave rise to the action.” In that situation, the three-year clock starts running at the time when “the malpractice should, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, have been discovered.”

Keep in mind that if you did not discover right away that you were injured as a result of a health care provider’s malpractice, as the plaintiff you have the burden of proving that you couldn’t have discovered it even through the “exercise of reasonable diligence.” Only then will you be able to rely on this “discovery” exception.

Finally, what if you try to file your Rhode Island medical malpractice 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. If the court grants the request (which it almost certainly will), that is the end of your lawsuit. So it’s crucial to pay attention to the deadline. Learn more about the Statute of Limitations in a Medical Malpractice Case.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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