When a doctor injures you due to negligence or incompetence, you may want to take some time to recover from your injuries. After all, it is hard to think about complex legal issues in poor health, so waiting to heal seems like a good option. However, there are a few good reasons to wait to contact a lawyer and one big reason you shouldn't wait too long.
How Long Do You Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
Most types of cases have a time limit. This means you have a certain period after an incident when you can file a lawsuit. This is known as the statute of limitations. In Virginia, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits is two years. Two years seems like a long time to file a lawsuit, but if you are recovering from serious injuries and have spent weeks or months in a hospital, two years can fly by. The question is – when do the two years begin?
In Virginia, we have something known as the “continuing treatment rule,” which states that the statute of limitations starts when you leave the care of the doctor who committed malpractice. Also, in cases where you do not know malpractice has taken place until months or years later (such as when a surgeon leaves a sponge inside your body), you may have one year to file a lawsuit from the date you discovered the malpractice.
Does This Mean I Have Two Years To Get My Case In Court?
The statute of limitations refers to the time you have to file a case, not have the case before a judge and jury. In fact, it may take several months after the lawsuit is filed to get a court date. During that time, your attorney will be researching the details of your case, interviewing medical experts, and preparing for trial.
Medical malpractice cases are time intensive, so don't be surprised if your court date is over a year after your attorney files the case.
Should You Contact a Lawyer Immediately After You Have Been Injured?
Many people are under the impression they have to contact an attorney right away. For personal injury cases, we sometimes get calls from people who are still in the ambulance! Immediately contacting a lawyer is not always the best option. First, you should spend some time to focus on your well being. There is no need to add additional stress to your life if the statute of limitations is not near. Second, you should know how much treatment you will need for your injuries. If your injuries require a lifetime of treatment, you may be entitled to more compensation from the doctor who injured you.