The Statute of Limitations in a Medical Malpractice Case
A law establishing the time limit within which a lawsuit must be brought is called a statute of limitation. Different types of cases have different statutes of limitation. Knowing which statute of limitation applies is critical, since if a lawsuit is not brought within the time limit that applies to the case, the right to sue and recover damages is forever lost. The statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit is usually relatively short and subject to a number of factors.
General Rules for Time Limits
The deadline for filing a lawsuit depends upon the specific facts of the case. An attorney should be consulted to determine the specific time period within which one must file their lawsuit. Below is a list of some general guidelines relating to when personal injury claims must be filed under Arizona law:
Personal Injury Generally (A.R.S.§ 12-542)
The statute of limitation for actions alleging personal injury is 2 YEARS. See Matter of Estate of Chase, 125 Ariz. 270, 609 P.2d 85 (App. 1980) (statute of limitation on personal injury claim begins to accrue at the date of injury).
Claims Against Public Entity or Public Employee, Notice of Claim (A.R.S. § 12-821.01)
Persons who have claims against a public entity or a public employee shall file claims with the person or persons authorized to accept service for the public entity or public employee as set forth in the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure within 180 DAYS after the cause of action accrues. Any claim that is not filed within 180 DAYS after the cause of action accrues is BARRED, and no action may be maintained thereon. For purposes of this section, a cause of action accrues when the damaged party realizes he or she has been damaged and knows or reasonably should know the cause, source, act, event, instrumentality of condition which caused or contributed to the damage.
The claim shall contain facts sufficient to permit the public entity or public employee to understand the basis upon which liability is claimed. The claim shall also contain a specific amount for which the claim can be settled and the facts supporting that amount.
Statute of Limitation (A.R.S. § 12-821)
All actions against any public entity or public employee shall be brought within 1 YEAR after the cause of action accrues and not afterward.
Medical Malpractice (A.R.S. § 12-542(I ))
The statute of limitation for an alleged action of medical malpractice is 2 YEARS. Under the discovery rule followed in Arizona, the cause of action does not accrue until the patient knows or should have known that the malpractice occurred. Mayer v. Good Samaritan Hospital, 14 Ariz. App. 248, 482 P.2d 497 (1971).
Negligence (A.R.S. § 12-542)
The statute of limitation for an action alleging negligence is 2 YEARS. Hatch v. Reliance Insurance Company, 758 f.2D 409 (9TH Cir. 1985, CERT. DENIED, 474 U.S. 1021 (1985); Nielson v. Arizona Title Ins. and Trust Co., 15 Ariz. App. 29, 485 P.2d 853 (1971). The cause of action for negligence accrues when the plaintiff knows, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, of the defendant's negligent conduct, or when the plaintiff is first able to sue. Sato v. Van Denburgh, 123 Ariz. 225, 599 P.2d 181 (1979).
Wrongful Death (A.R.S. § 12-542(2))
The statute of limitation is 2 YEARS for a wrongful death claim. Rogers v. Smith Kline & French Laboratories, 5 Ariz. App. 553, 429 P.2d 4 (1967). Generally, the 2 YEAR statute of limitation begins to accrue at the date of decedent's death. See, e.g., James v. Phoenix General Hospital, Inc., 154 Ariz. 594, 744 P.2d 695 91987). However, in Anson v. American Motors Corp., 155 Ariz. 420, 747 P.2d 581 (App. 1987), the Arizona Court of Appeals held that the statute of limitation does not accrue until the plaintiff discovers or with reasonable diligence should have discovered that he has been injured by the defendant's negligent conduct. See also, Lawhon v. L.B.J. Institutional Supply, 159 Ariz. 179, 765 P.2d 1003 (App. 1988) (cause of action does not accrue until plaintiff knows he has been negligently injured by a particular defendant).
Product Liability (A.R.S. §§ 12-551, 12-542(1))
The statute of limitation for a products liability action is 2 YEARS. No products liability action may be commenced if the cause of action accrues more than 12 years after the product was first sold for use or consumption, unless the cause of action is based on negligence of the manufacturer or seller or breach of an express warranty. A.R.S. §§ 12-551.
Children Under 18 (A.R.S. § 12-502)
If a child is inured, special rules apply in measuring the statute of limitation. As a general rule, the statute of limitation does not begin to run for an injury until the child reaches 18 years of age. In other words, if a person entitled to bring an action is at the time the cause of action accrues either under 18 years of age or of unsound mind, the period of such disability shall not be deemed a portion of the period limited for commencement of the action. Such person shall have the same time after removal of the disability which is allowed to others.
There are also different exceptions that may apply for each type of case, which may extend the statute of limitations. Of course, regardless of the possible availability of an exception, it is always beneficial to bring a lawsuit as soon as it is practical to do so, since the availability (and memory) of witnesses to an accident and related physical evidence is much greater shortly after an accident than after years have passed. It is critical that you contact an attorney immediately after suffering any injury so that the appropriate statute of limitations can be determined. At Knapp & Roberts, we make sure to explore all aspects of your case as soon as possible to ensure that no claims are lost as a result of untimely action.
In all matters involving personal injury it is essential that measure be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question, and to file a lawsuit prior to the deadline imposed by the statute of limitations.
Let Us Tell Your Story
Free initial consultation. Contact our Scottsdale or Phoenix medical malpractice law firm online or call us at 480-991-7677 (toll free at 800-541-4477). In all medical negligence cases, there are no out-of pocket costs to our clients. We assume all the financial risk and are paid ONLY if we win your case.
Don't delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitation expires.