Victims of medical malpractice only have a limited time to file a claim for damages in Georgia. This time limit is known as the “statute of limitations.” After the statute of limitations expires, the victim may be unable to bring a medical malpractice claim for damages. It is important for medical malpractice victims to talk to their experienced Georgia med mal attorney as soon as possible after discovering an accident or injury to make sure the claim is filed in time and the victim gets the full compensation they are owed.
Time Limits for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim in Georgia
The time limits for filing a med mal claim in Georgia can be confusing because there are a number of exceptions and variations that need to be accounted for. The statute of limitations may vary based on the cause of injury, age of the injury victim, and who is the defendant. These exceptions may either shorten or lengthen the time limit to file a claim.
Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Georgia
Under Georgia Code Section 9-3-71, most medical malpractice claims “shall be brought within two years after the date on which an injury or death arising from a negligent or wrongful act or omission occurred.”
However, one of the problems with a medical malpractice claim is that the injury is not discovered until later. This is common in surgeries where the patient is unconscious, or with patients who are non-verbal, or very young patients. These patients may be unaware that something wrong happened or be unable to communicate problems that occurred during medical treatment.
Statute of Repose for Medical Malpractice in Georgia
In addition to the statute of limitations, Georgia law further limits claims for injury victims with a “statute of repose.” The statute of repose provides that, “in no event may an action for medical malpractice be brought more than five years after the date on which the negligent or wrongful act or omission occurred.”
The statute of repose means that a medical malpractice victim who discovered the accident more than 5 years after the wrongful act occurred would be unable to file a claim against the doctors or hospitals responsible. While 5 years sounds like a long time, many medical malpractice errors are not discovered for more than 5 years, leaving many med mal victims unable to recover compensation caused by a medical professional's negligence.
Discovery Rule and Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
Generally, the “discovery rule,” provides additional time to medical malpractice victims who do not discover the accident or injury until later. However, the discovery rule in Georgia may be limited depending on the type of negligence.
Foreign Object Left in the Body
For example, after an invasive surgery, the patient recovers for a couple of days in the hospital and is then released to go home. During follow-up visits, the patient complains about pains that the doctor cannot account for. The pain continues for months, which the doctor prescribes medication for. A year later, during an x-ray for another issue, an x-ray technician notices there appears to be a foreign object left in the patient's body during the prior surgery.
Under Georgia Code Section 9-3-72, that statute of limitations, “shall not apply where a foreign object has been left in a patient's body, but in such a case an action shall be brought within one year after the negligent or wrongful act or omission is discovered.”
Generally, when a foreign object was left in the body, the malpractice victim has one year to file a malpractice claim from the date the wrongful act was discovered.
Other Medical Malpractice Late Discoveries
Other discoveries of wrongdoing may be limited by the five-year statute of repose for medical malpractice in Georgia. Even if the negligent act or wrongful omission was discovered years later, it may be too late to file a claim if it has been more than five years since the malpractice occurred. Talk to your Atlanta medical malpractice attorney about your claim to make sure your lawsuit is filed in time.
Disabilities and Victim Under the Age of 18
Minors who are five years old and older and individuals who are legally incompetent because of mental illness or retardation are subject to the same statute of limitations for medical malpractice. This means minors are still generally subject to the two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice.
For malpractice victims who are minors under the age of five, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the minor's fifth birthday.
The statute of repose for minors is based on the minor's age. A minor cannot bring a malpractice action after their tenth birthday if the minor was under the age of five when the negligent or wrongful act or omission occurred. If the minor was over the age of five, the minor cannot bring a malpractice action more than five years after the negligent action or omission occurred.
Contact Atlanta Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today
At The Kaplan Firm, PC, our attorneys have decades of experience fighting for our clients to get the full amount of compensation possible. There is a limited time to file your medical malpractice claim so contact us as soon as possible. If you wait too long, your claim may be denied, leaving you without compensation for your injuries, medical bills, and lost wages. Contact us today at our Roswell, Georgia location for a free initial consultation.