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

Question:

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

Answer:

Like a lot of states, Maryland has enacted a specific statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits. But first, some background for readers who may not be fluent in “legalese”: A statute of limitations is a state law that sets a limit on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after you have suffered some type of harm (such as an injury or a financial loss). There are different deadlines depending on the kind of case you want to file.

Maryland’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases can be found at Maryland Courts & Judicial Proceedings Code section 5-109, and it says that a medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed within five years of the time that the injury was committed, or within three years of the date the injury was discovered, whichever comes first.

Keep in mind that if you are relying on the three-year “discovery” portion of the statute, as the plaintiff you have the burden of proving that you did not discover -- and you could not have reasonably discovered -- the occurrence of the underlying medical error until the time when you finally took action.

Maryland has specified special lawsuit filing rules for harm suffered by patients who were under the age of 11 at the time the medical negligence occurred. In most situations, the statute of limitations "clock" doesn't start running until the patient reaches the age of 11. For patients who were under 16 and suffered either harm to the reproductive system or injury caused by the presence of a foreign object, the filing deadline "clock" starts when the patient reaches the age of 16.  And finally, if the patient was under a mental disability at the time the underlying malpractice occurred, or was under 18 at the time, the filing deadline will most likely be set at three years from the date on which the mental disability ends or the person turns 18. That's according to standard exceptions applying to the statute of limitations for most kinds of civil cases filed in Maryland, found at Maryland Courts & Judicial Proceedings Code section 5-201.

Having read all of this, you may be wondering what happens if you try to file your medical malpractice lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has already passed (and no exception applies to alter or extend the filing deadline). In that situation, it’s a safe bet that the doctor or health care facility you’re trying to sue will file a legal motion asking the court to dismiss the case, the court will grant the request, and that will be the end of your lawsuit. So, it’s easy to see why it’s important to pay attention to the Maryland statute of limitations and understand the deadline as it applies to your medical malpractice case. Learn more about the Statute of Limitations in a Medical Malpractice Case.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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