What is the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Washington?
Anyone who wants to to file a medical
malpractice lawsuit in Washington first needs to be aware of the “statute
of limitations.” This is a state law that sets a strict limit on the amount of
time you have to get a lawsuit started in the civil court system. There are
different deadlines, depending on the kind of case you want to file.
Like a lot of states, Washington has enacted a specific statute of
limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits. You can find this law at Revised Code of Washington
section 4.16.350, and
that this kind of case must be filed within three years of
the date on which the underlying malpractice was allegedly committed -- or
alternatively, within one year of
the date when the patient discovered (or should have been able to discover)
that he or she was injured as a result of malpractice.
important to note that if you are arguing that you did not discover right away
that you were harmed by the defendant’s medical error, as the
plaintiff you have the burden of proving that you did not know -- and you could
not reasonably have been expected to know -- about the wrongdoing until
you actually did.
There is also a larger catch-all filing deadline (known as a
“statute of repose”) in Washington, which says that all medical malpractice
lawsuits must be
filed within eight years from the
date on which the malpractice occurred. So, once those eight years have passed, even if
you didn’t know (and couldn’t have known) that you were harmed by malpractice
during all of that time, your right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Washington
Finally, there are a few situations that will “toll” the statute of
limitations in Washington -- keep the “clock” from running, in other words. If
the injury was caused by a foreign object left inside the patient, or if the
malpractice was intentionally concealed by fraud, the patient has one year from the date of actual
knowledge of the injury to get the case filed.
By now you’re probably wondering what happens if Washington’s
statute of limitations filing deadline has passed and you try to file your
medical malpractice lawsuit anyway. In that situation, the defendant will
almost certainly ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court will grant
the motion. Once that happens, that’s the end of your lawsuit. Get more details on the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases.
by: David Goguen,