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

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Question:

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

Answer:

First, readers who perhaps aren’t as fluent in the language of “legalese” could probably use a little background information. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a limit -- almost always expressed in years -- on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after you have suffered some type of loss or injury.

Like a lot of states, Utah has a dedicated statute of limitations that applies to medical malpractice lawsuits. This law can be found at Utah Code section 78B-3-404, and it says, “A malpractice action against a health care provider shall be commenced within two years after the plaintiff or patient discovers, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have discovered the injury, whichever first occurs.” So, if the malpractice is not known of right away, the case must be filed within two years of the date on which it is actually (or could reasonably be) discovered by the plaintiff.

Utah’s medical malpractice statute of limitations goes on to set a larger, catch-all deadline (known as a “statute of repose”) declaring that no such action shall be brought once four years have passed since the medical error occurred. But there are two kinds of cases where this larger four-year deadline does not apply: those where a foreign object was left in the patient’s body, and those where the health care provider concealed the malpractice through fraud. In those situations, once the existence of the malpractice case is discovered, the plaintiff has one year to file the lawsuit.

Having read all of this, you may be wondering what happens if Utah’s statute of limitations deadline has passed, but you try to file your medical malpractice lawsuit anyway. In that situation, it’s a safe bet that the doctor or health care facility you’re trying to sue will ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court will grant the request. If that happens, it marks the end of your lawsuit. So it’s easy to see why it’s crucial to understand the statute of limitations in a medical malpractice case.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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