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