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

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Question:

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

Answer:

Like a lot of states, Vermont has a dedicated statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits. But first, readers who aren’t all that fluent in the language of "legalese" could probably use a little background information.  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 loss or injury. The deadline is almost always expressed in years, and there are different time windows depending on the kind of case you want to file.

Vermont’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases, which is codified at Vermont Statutes Title 12 section 521, specifies that this type of case "shall be brought within three years of the date of the incident or two years from the date the injury is or reasonably should have been discovered, whichever occurs later."It’s important to note that if you are relying on the "discovery" portion of the statute, as the plaintiff you have the burden of proving that you could not have "reasonably" discovered the malpractice until you actually did.

There is a larger catch-all deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Vermont, which says that this kind of case must be filed "not later than seven years from the date of the incident." This is known as a "statute of repose," and it applies regardless of whether the patient had a reasonable opportunity to discover that he or she was harmed by a medical error. The key exception to this larger seven-year deadline is cases where a foreign object was left in a patient (i.e. after surgery). In those situations, according to the Vermont statute, "the action may be commenced within two years of the date of the discovery of the foreign object,"and the larger seven year deadline does not apply.

Vermont’s law makes clear that the time limit is very lenient in cases where the medical error was covered up via fraud: "No statute of limitations shall limit the right to recover damages for injuries to the person arising out of any medical or surgical treatment or operation where fraudulent concealment has prevented the patient's discovery of the negligence."

Finally, if Vermont's statute of limitations deadline has passed, and you try to file your lawsuit anyway, it’s a safe bet that the court will dismiss the case. Learn more about the Statute of Limitations in a Medical Malpractice Case.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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