Close Close icon Closes a section of a page

The Medical Malpractice Insurance Guide

Overview of the Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

April 28, 2020

Pink exclamation point

In this chapter of the Medical Malpractice Insurance Guide, we'll go into greater detail regarding an important concept: The statute of limitations for medical malpractice. We'll define what a "statute of limitations" is (specifically within the context of malpractice), explain what some common exceptions are, and then provide you with an outline of the basic statutes of limitations for medical malpractice in each state.

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

The statutes of limitations are the amount of time an injured party has to bring a lawsuit for medical malpractice. After that time has passed, a suit for damages cannot be filed. Every state has a time limit for filing medical malpractice suits, but how long that limit is and when it starts differs from state to state. Think of it as a ticking clock, counting down the time to act. Some states start the clock from the date the alleged injury, damage, or malpractice took place, while other states measure the time limit begins as soon as the mistake is discovered or reported. Often, injuries are discovered right when they happen, but sometimes the damage that can result from a medical error isn’t obvious until much later.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

Some state laws make special exceptions for certain individuals or circumstances to give them more time to file a malpractice suit. These may include:

  • Minor children: Many states allow minors more time than adults to file a lawsuit. In some states, the clock doesn’t start ticking on the statute of limitations until after a child turns 18, while other states make exceptions only for very young children.
  • Foreign objects: Many states have exceptions to the statute of limitations if the alleged malpractice involves a foreign object, such as a medical sponge left in a patient’s body after surgery. These laws often allow the clock to start ticking only after the object was first discovered, even if it was found after the time limit would have otherwise passed.
  • Relocation, fraud, or other misconduct: The statute of limitations is sometimes delayed or waived altogether if the defendant moves to a different state after the alleged incident, tried to conceal the malpractice, or acted intentionally or in a way that was grossly negligent within a certain time period after the incident.
  • Extensions: Some states allow the statute of limitations to be extended for a brief period, as long as certain criteria are met. In Ohio, for example, patients approaching the one-year mark since the discovery of an injury can send their provider a “180-day letter” letting them know they are considering suing. AS long as the letter is received within one year of discovering the incident or injury, the plaintiff will get an extra 180 days to file suit.

As noted above, not all states have these exceptions. Check your state’s applicable laws or consult a lawyer to understand how the statute of limitations operate in your state.

Medical Malpractice Statutes of Limitations by State

This table is a non-comprehensive overview of the basic statute of limitations (not taking into account extensions or other exceptions) for medical malpractice in each state. Keep in mind that the table below reflects each state's statutes of limitations at the time this guide was published. Be sure to check your state’s laws to find the most up-to-date information applicable to medical malpractice in your state.

Medical Malpractice Statutes of Limitations by State

State Time From Injury/Cause of Action Time From Discovery of Injury Maximum Time From Injury/Cause of Action
Alabama 2 years 6 months 4 years
Alaska 2 years 2 years 2 years
Arizona 2 years 2 years 2 years
Arkansas 2 years 1 year 2 years
California 3 years 1 year 3 years
Colorado 2 years 3 years 3 years
Connecticut 2 years 3 years 3 years
Delaware 2 years 3 years 3 years
District of Columbia 3 years 3 years 3 years
Florida 2 years 2 years 7 years
Georgia 2 years 1 year 5 years
Hawaii 2 years 2 years 6 years
Idaho 2 years 1 year 2 years
Illinois 4 years 2 years 4 years
Indiana 2 years 2 years 2 years
Iowa 2 years 2 years 6 years
Kansas 2 years 4 years 8 years
Kentucky 1 year 1 year 5 years
Louisiana 1 year 1 year 3 years
Maine 3 years 3 years 6 years
Maryland 5 years 3 years N/A
Massachusetts 3 years 7 years 7 years
Michigan 2 years 6 months 6 years
Minnesota 4 years 4 years 4 years
Mississippi 2 years 2 years 7 years
Missouri 2 years 2 years N/A
Montana 3 years 3 years 5 years
Nebraska 2 years 1 year 10 years
Nevada 3 years 1 year 10 years
New Hampshire 3 years 3 years N/A
New Jersey 2 years 2 years 2 years
New Mexico 3 years No additional time for discovery 3 years
New York 2.5 years 1 year 2.5 years
North Carolina 2 years 1 year 4 years
North Dakota 2 years 2 years 6 years
Ohio 1 year 4 years 4 years
Oklahoma 2 years 2 years 2 years
Oregon 2 years 2 years 5 years
Pennsylvania 7 years 7 years 7 years
Rhode Island 3 years 3 years 3 years
South Carolina 3 years 3 years 6 years
South Dakota 2 years 2 years 2 years
Tennessee 1 year 1 year 3 years
Texas 2 years 10 years 10 years
Utah 2 years 4 years 4 years
Vermont 3 years 2 years 7 years
Virginia 2 years 1 year 10 years
Washington 3 years 1 year 8 years
West Virginia 2 years 2 years 10 years
Wisconsin 3 years 1 year 5 years
Wyoming 2 years 2 years 2 years

Data source: National Conference of State Legislators


Image courtesy of iStock.com/masterzphotois


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice.

How we use your email address