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How does the statue of limitations affect a med-mal case?

Have you ever been to the doctors or undergone a surgery only to discover years later that a mistake was made? Most people who go through this are often left with a sense of injustice and may not know that they can seek compensation with the help of legal counsel. But in many states, including here in Mississippi, there are statutes of limitations that prohibit a victim from filing a lawsuit after a certain period of time, even if negligence is found to be a factor in the case. This can not only leave a person frustrated but questioning whether such practice should be allowed, especially in cases of minors.

As some of our Mississippi readers might know, this question was recently raised by a medical malpractice case in Washington where a 19-year-old man pointed out that the statute of limitations for personal injury claims put extensive burden of proof on minors who may not even be old enough to understand their legal options before the statute of limitations expires. He used his own case as an example.

When he was nine years old, a doctor told him that his MRI test was normal despite the serious visual problems and headaches he was experiencing. Eight years later, another MRI showed that his brain was actually protruding into his spinal canal. But because of the statute of limitations, a lower court dismissed his medical malpractice case. He eventually took his arguments to the Washington Supreme Court where he finally received a favorable ruling. Although one judge noted that the statute of limitations had been put in place to avoid frivolous lawsuits, many of the judges agreed with the 19-year-old that the limitations did put excessive burden on minors and their families who may not know that legal options exist prior to the statutes expiration.

Although this case had a favorable outcome for the plaintiff, readers of our blog know that this isn't always the case, especially without help from an experienced lawyer. Even though this can seem like an unnecessary expense, as the case above shows, it might mean the difference between compensation from a negligent party and living the rest of your life with a sense of injustice.

Source: Courthouse News, "Children's Malpractice Cases Duck Time Limits," Jeff D. Gorman, Jan. 22, 2014

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