Like every other state, Arizona has passed a number of laws known as “statutes of limitations,” which affect a plaintiff’s rights when it comes to filing a lawsuit after you have suffered some type of harm or loss.
Specifically, these laws set a limit (expressed in years) on the amount of time you have to go to court and get the case started. In Arizona, in the context of a medical malpractice lawsuit, that means filing the initial complaint and, if necessary, also filing written certification as to whether you’ll need to employ a qualified expert medical witness to support your allegations against the defendant.
Arizona’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits can be found at Arizona Revised Statutes section 12-542, and it states that a legal action alleging malpractice by a health care professional or care facility must be filed “within two years after the cause of action accrues, and not afterward.”
In Arizona, your cause of action is said to “accrue” -- meaning the clock starts running on the two-year lawsuit filing deadline -- when you actually know or should reasonably know about the defendant’s wrongdoing, such as the commission of the underlying medical error. Keep in mind that if you are relying on this “discovery rule,” as the plaintiff you have the burden of proving that you did not discover, and you could not have reasonably discovered, the existence of the claim until the time when you finally took action.
If the deadline set by the Arizona statute of limitations has passed, but you try to file the lawsuit anyway, the doctor or health care facility you’re trying to sue will almost certainly file a motion asking the court to dismiss the case, and the court will almost surely grant the motion. So it’s critical that you pay attention to the deadline as it applies to your case.