Medical malpractice constitutes a special subsection of tort law, and in many states has its own statute of limitations, the rules governing when you must file suit or waive your rights. Statutes of limitations exist to provide some level of predictability and security to people whose actions may have injured another, and to ensure that lawsuits are filed while witnesses and records still exist.
Maryland has an unusually long statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. You must file within five years of the date you received the injury, or three years of the date you discovered the injury, whichever comes earlier. In other words, if a doctor commits malpractice and you know about it when it happens, you have three years in which to file suit.
If a doctor commits malpractice and you remain unaware of it until later — for example, a surgeon accidentally leaves a tool in your body when stitching you back up, but it does not cause you pain or require medical attention until a couple years later — you have three years to file suit from the date you discover the injury, but in no case more than five years from the date of the original malpractice.
For children under 11, the statute begins to “run” when the child turns 11. For minors under 16 who suffer injury to their reproductive systems or injuries caused by a foreign object negligently left in their bodies, the statute begins to run when they turn 16, regardless of when the injury occurred.
Washington, DC has a somewhat simpler statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases: they must begin within three years of the date of injury.
Dr. Michael M. Wilson is an attorney and a physician who earned his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his legal and medical degrees from Georgetown University. He has focused in the area of medical malpractice for more than three decades and secured more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients throughout the country. He is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and New York as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is listed in America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.