How long do I have to file a medical malpractice suit in Virginia?
You went to the doctor for treatment or for some procedure. You believe that the doctor who treated you may have done something wrong that resulted in a worse outcome for you, and may have committed medical malpractice. You decide that you simply don’t have the time or energy right now to consult a lawyer and pursue any claim you have against the doctor, and that you will wait until you feel better to do anything about it. You should be aware, however, that you should not wait too long, because your claim is subject to a deadline known as a “statute of imitations.” Once that deadline passes, then you can no longer legally pursue your claim.
Statutes of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Cases in Virginia
Statutes of limitations in medical malpractice cases in Virginia are specified in laws passed by the Virginia legislature. These laws set strict limits on how much time you have to file a “civil” lawsuit, like a personal injury claim, for medical malpractice. There are two rules to keep in mind regarding statutes of limitations:
- The time period starts running on the date your claim arises or “accrues” (the date of your personal injury); and
- Once the statute of limitations expires or “runs,” you can’t file a lawsuit or legally pursue your claim.
There are many types of civil claims, and each is governed by its own statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims gives a range of time, as opposed to one specific date, and that time may be as little as one year or as long as 10 years. In determining the applicable time limit for a specific case, it is important to consider two things:
- The type of malpractice; and
- When it is discovered.
Can the Time Limit for a Medical Malpractice Case Be Extended?
In most cases, the time limit for medical malpractice claims is two years from the date of injury, which may or may not be the same date as the act of malpractice. However, there are specific situations where this time period can be extended:
- In cases where a foreign object with no therapeutic effect has been left in the body, the statute of limitations runs one year after the date the object is discovered or reasonably should have been discovered;
- In cases where fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation prevented discovery of the injury within the 2 year period, the statute of limitations runs one year after the date the injury is discovered or by the exercise of due diligence reasonably should have been discovered; and
- In cases involving negligent failure to diagnose a malignant tumor or cancer, the statute of limitations runs one year after the date the diagnosis of a malignant tumor or cancer is communicated to the patient by a healthcare provider IF the health care provider’s underlying act or omission was on or after July 1, 2008. If, in a claim for negligent failure to diagnose a malignant tumor or cancer, the underlying act or omission was before July 1, 2008, the statute of limitations is given by the law that existed prior to July 1, 2008.
The above provisions, however, will not extend the limitations to a period greater than ten years after the cause of action accrues.
Thus, you may have anywhere from one to ten years to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Unfortunately, determining when your time period begins running is often unclear and will depend entirely on the particular facts of your case. For this reason it is important that you contact a lawyer immediately if you suspect you have been the victim of medical malpractice. Your lawyer can evaluate your claim and advise you of how much time you have and what steps you should take to protect and pursue your claim.
Investigating a medical malpractice claim is time consuming. For that reason, you should contact an attorney long before your deadline runs out, so that the attorney will have time to properly investigate your claim. If your deadline passes before you either settle or file a lawsuit, you will not get the compensation you deserve. If you have suffered from medical malpractice, please contact an attorney regarding your claim as soon as possible.
About the Author: Mic McConnell is a Richmond, VA medical malpractice attorney. With over 20 years of experience, Mic has handled challenging cases in almost every medical specialty for over twenty years. Mic handles cases in Virginia and across the United States.
 For more information about statutes of limitation in general and the statutes in Virginia, see article “Virginia Statutes of Limitations” at http://research.lawyers.com/Virginia/Virginia-Statutes-of-Limitations.html.
 See Va. Code § 8.01-243(C)(1), at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+8.01-243.
 See Va. Code § 8.01-243(C)(2), at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+8.01-243.
 Va. Code § 8.01-243(C)(3), at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+8.01-243.