A statute of limitations is a law that outlines a deadline on when an individual may file a lawsuit against another party. The statute of limitations time frame typically begins after the occurrence of the event in question. In situations such as medical malpractice, the statute of limitations may begin after the patient discovers—or should have reasonably discovered—that medical malpractice may have occurred.
Each state has varying statutes of limitations depending on the type of lawsuit that a plaintiff may wish to pursue. In Florida, the baseline statute of limitations for medical negligence claims is two years after the patient discovers or should have reasonably discovered that his or her injuries may have been caused by medical negligence.
Florida’s Statute of Repose
Alongside Florida’s statute of limitations is the statute of repose. The statute of repose states that a medical malpractice claim may not be filed against a healthcare provider more than four years after the physical incident occurred. The only exceptions to the statute of repose are if concealment, fraud, or misrepresentation have also occurred surrounding the incident. However, in no case will the statute of limitations exceed seven years after the injurious incident occurred.
The statute of repose may pose harmful legal repercussions for patients affected by medical negligence. If discovery of potential medical malpractice does not occur within four years of the incident, the patient loses his or her right to sue under most circumstances. As a result, the patient may never receive compensation for his or her injuries.
Statute of Repose for Children
In 1996, Florida first adopted a statute of repose that applies specifically to children. The statute of repose applies to medical negligence and malpractice incidents that occur on or after July 1, 1996. In these cases, a child’s medical malpractice claim may not be denied prior to his or her eighth birthday. However, the two year statute of limitations may cause claim denial in the event that the child’s parents or guardians are aware or should be reasonably aware that malpractice occurred.
The Nardone Rule
The Nardone rule, or “discovery rule,” was first established in 1976. During Nardone v. Reynolds, the Florida Supreme Court set a precedent for when the Florida statute of limitations first begins. Since Nardone, Florida’s statute of limitations first began when the patient wass either notified of an injurious negligent act, or notified of the injury that was caused by the act.
Barron v. Shapiro
In 1990, the Florida Supreme Court issued a decision on a medical negligence case called Barron v Shapiro. This decision reaffirmed the Nardone principle. In this case, the plaintiff developed a severe infection after a colon operation. After four months of heavy treatment for the infection, the plaintiff became blind. The Supreme Court established that the onset of blindness was enough knowledge to begin suspecting that medical negligence as the cause.
Amendment of the Nardone Rule
In 1993, the Florida Supreme Court revised this principle due to the harsh results it may cause. Firstly, adverse injuries can occur naturally, without an incidence of medical malpractice. Additionally, the principle could strain the doctor-patient relationship. This is due to a patient’s requirement to assume medical malpractice at the onset of an unexpected injury. At this point, the Court held that in addition to knowledge of the injury, the patient must be aware of a reasonable possibility that medical malpractice directly caused the injury.
When to File a Medical Negligence Claim
Due to the Florida statute of limitations on medical negligence, all harmed parties should pursue their medical negligence claim as soon as possible. Injured patients are strongly advised to seek the consultation and guidance of an experience medical negligence lawyer.
A medical negligence attorney can help to navigate state laws and determine the facts of each case. Additionally, the medical negligence attorney can determine which of the state’s specific statutes apply to the patient’s ability to file a lawsuit. A medical negligence lawyer can also help with other lawsuit elements, such as collecting evidence, preparing a case, and filing legal motions.
“2011 Florida Statutes.” The Florida Senate. State of Florida. Web. 18 Sep 2013. <http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2011/Chapter766>.
“Chapter 766: Medical Malpractice and Related Matters.”Online Sunshine. The Florida Legislature. Web. 18 Sep 2013. <http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0766/0766ContentsIndex.html&StatuteYear=2012&Title=->2012->Chapter 766>.
Osherow, Mark R. “Florida Medical Malpractice and the Statute of Limitations.” Florida Bar Journal. 77.7 (2003): 38. Web. 18 Sep. 2013. <http://www.floridabar.org/DIVCOM/JN/JNJournal01.nsf/c0d731e03de9828d852574580042ae7a/f7bc2200718a2a2685256d550074a2c3?OpenDocument&Highlight=0,osherow*>.