What’s the Time Limit for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim?

medical malpractice time

Imagine you enter a surgery suite for a routine abdominal procedure. Everything appears to go well. The surgery was a success. You recover from anesthesia and are sent home with your family. 

Several weeks later, you note a nagging pain in your lower abdomen. You start experiencing fever and chills, and your condition progressively worsens. You are taken back to the hospital with a raging infection, and the CT scan shows a retained sponge inside your abdominal cavity. Additional surgery is required to remove the foreign body, and a PICC line is placed for long-term antibiotic treatment. 

The infection slowly begins to heal after weeks of hospitalization. Thankfully, you are released to go home to make a full recovery. How could this have happened? Should you file a lawsuit? How much time do you have to decide to file suit?

Unfortunately, medical malpractice is becoming more common, with 15,000-19,000 cases filed per year in the United States. Thankfully, not all are as severe as the incident described above. However, the uncertainty of the unknown when a provider informs you or your loved one about a mistake that was made can cause significant anxiety and stress.

Obtaining early representation ensures that the case meets the legal requirements before a lawsuit is filed. The legal elements that must be proven include: (1) duty (a professional duty was owed to the patient), (2) the medical professional breached that duty, and in so doing caused (3) injury and (4) resulting damages ensued. 

It’s important to realize that time is of the essence when you believe a medical error was made. Each state puts a time limit on when a complaint can be filed with the court. This date is known as the statute of limitations date. Failure to submit a medical malpractice claim by the statute of limitations date most often will prevent the patient from seeking a lawsuit in the future. The date set varies depending on the type of injury incurred. Most states range between 1-3 years, with a few extending the time period to 5 years.

For example, in Missouri, the following restrictions apply:

  • The general statute of limitations for medical malpractice is two years, meaning a patient has two years from the date of injury to file a complaint with the court.
  • In the case of a retained instrument, the court allows two years from the date the instrument was discovered, not necessarily the date the instrument was left in the body. 
  • In the case of misdiagnosis, the court allows two years from the date it was discovered that a patient was misinformed about medical tests. 
  • Additionally, any minor has until their twentieth birthday to pursue legal action.

We recently published a full breakdown of the statutes of limitations for Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas that you can view here.

Not in either of those states? You can find the medical malpractice statute of limitations date by state here.

It is imperative to have attorney representation before filing a complaint. Your attorney will be well-versed in each state’s laws and will know what additional items are required to ensure a smooth litigation process. Some states require the initial complaint to be filed, evidence of merit presented (that is, the case has potential value), and that expert witnesses testify to the facts. 

Speaking with an attorney, such as the trusted team of medical malpractice attorneys at Brown & Crouppen, will ensure that your case is evaluated and handled with the care it deserves. The consultation will also ensure that you know the steps required for a successful outcome and know that someone is fighting on your side to ensure you receive the justice you deserve.


Shanna Robert is a Registered Nurse in the Complex Personal Injury Department at Brown & Crouppen. She’s experienced in Mass Tort and Personal Injury cases. She is also the founder of the Legal Nurse Network, a community of Legal Nurses aiming to network, train, and develop their skills.

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