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is the statute of limitations for a medical malpractice lawsuit in Washington,
The District of Columbia, like a number of states in the
U.S., has a broad statute of limitations that applies to many kinds of
injury-related civil lawsuits, including medical malpractice cases.
But first, in case your legalese is a little rusty, a “statute
of limitations” is a law that sets a time limit on a prospective plaintiff’s
right to file a lawsuit after suffering some kind of harm. The deadline is typically
expressed in years.
Now, onto the specifics of the law in the District of Columbia. The
standard statute of limitations as it applies to a medical malpractice lawsuit
(D.C. Code section 12-301) gives you three
years to get your lawsuit filed, starting “from the time the right to maintain the action accrues.”
In most medical malpractice
cases, that typically means three years from the date when the alleged medical
error occurred, but in some cases it can mean three years from the date
on which you discover -- or could reasonably have been expected to discover --
that you were harmed by medical malpractice.
The main exceptions to D.C.’s strict three-year deadline for
filing a medical malpractice lawsuit come into play when the prospective
plaintiff is a minor (under 18 years of age), is declared mentally incompetent,
or is in prison. In those situations, the statute of limitations is “tolled”
(meaning that the “clock” doesn’t run) until the plaintiff’s status changes -- meaning
he or she turns 18, is declared mentally competent, or is released from
What if you try to file your medical malpractice case after
the deadline has passed? Usually what
happens is the doctor or health care entity you are trying to sue will point
out that the statutory deadline has passed, they will file a motion to dismiss
the case, and the court will grant that motion. You’ll end up losing your right
to ask the court for any civil remedy for the defendant’s wrongdoing and the
harm it caused you. That’s why it’s crucial to pay attention to the statute of
limitations as it applies to your medical malpractice case.
by: David Goguen,
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