The Discovery Rule for Medical Malpractice Cases in Washington D.C.
In most medical malpractice cases in Washington D.C., the statute of limitations is three years. This means that a person has a three years from the date of the incident to life a lawsuit. Generally, this is a strict rule, with some exceptions.
One such exception is the discovery rule (sometimes known as the discovery of harm rule). In certain instances, injuries are not apparent until months or years after the date of surgery or medical visit. The tolling of the statute of limitations begins when the patient could reasonably have known that (1) he or she was injured (2) the factual cause of the injury and (3) there is some evidence of wrongdoing by the healthcare provider.
Let’s use an example to illustrate.
Let’s say on January 1st, 2018, a man, David, undergoes surgery to repair a broken right wrist. The doctor did not properly sterilize the surgical tools. David becomes infected, and his hand and wrist have to be amputated. David has until January 1st, 2021 to file a lawsuit against his doctor.
Let’s say on January 1st, 2018, a woman, Michelle, undergoes surgery to repair a broken right wrist. The surgery goes well, and Michelle is sent home. Five months later, on June 1st, 2018, Michelle begins to have immense pain in the right wrist. She gets an x-ray, and learns that there is gauze still in her wrist, and that the wrist is infected. If she did not see any other doctor or undergo any sort of surgery on the wrist in the five months between January and June, and there was no reasonable way she could have known of the gauze left in her wrist, then the statute of limitations begins on June 1st, not January 1st. Michelle has until June 1st, 2021 to file a lawsuit against her doctor.
Let’s say on January 1st, 2018, a man, Michael, undergoes surgery to repair a broken right wrist. Like Michelle, he begins to have immense pain in the wrist five months later. From June 1st to July 1st, he visited three different doctors. The third doctor, who he saw on July 1st, advised Michael to get an x-ray. The x-ray showed that gauze was left in his wrist. Because none of other doctor’s ordered x-rays or another method by which Michael could reasonably have learned that gauze was left in his wrist, the statute of limitations will likely begin on July 1st, 2018
The discovery rule can greatly help victims of medical malpractice file their lawsuit in the proper time frame.
If you or a loved one was injured as a result of negligence, the attorneys at Cohen & Cohen can help get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at (202) 955-4529for a free case evaluation.