Georgia medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within two years of the patient’s “injury or death.” If the patient is younger than five, the lawsuit must be filed by their seventh birthday.
In most medical malpractice cases, it’s pretty obvious when this two-year deadline begins. When a surgeon operates on the wrong leg, or a nurse gives the wrong medicine, it’s usually clear to all when the “injury” occurred. But what about when a disease is misdiagnosed, or a tumor is missed for months or years before the patient learns they’re sick? In some cases, the patient may not even discover the malpractice until the two-year period has already passed. Unfortunately, this can result in the Statute of Limitation expiring before the patient knows they have a case.
Fortunately, Georgia law does provide some relief from this harsh result. For example, in malpractice cases where a medical provider negligently misses a cancerous tumor, and the cancer is allowed to get worse, Georgia courts apply the “new injury” rule. Under this rule, the two-year statute does not begin to run until the patient begins to have outward symptoms of the cancer.
Likewise, in cases where a foreign object is left in a patient’s body, the malpractice lawsuit must be filed within one year after the foreign object is discovered.
In wrongful death cases, the Statute for the deceased patient’s estate’s claims does not begin to run until the estate is established.
There are other situations when the medical malpractice Statute of Limitations can be extended, such as when the provider refuses to turn over the patient’s records, or intentionally misleads the patient. However, these can be very difficult to prove.
And always beware: under Georgia’s Statute of Repose, no medical malpractice case can be filed more than five years after the malpractice occurred.
It can be very tricky navigating these rules and knowing when you may need to rush to file a medical malpractice case. If you believe you or a family member has suffered an injury from medical malpractice, please call us. We are here to discuss what happened, to gather information, and to advise you on your legal options. The call is free and always confidential.