What is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits in Utah?
Unreasonable complications, surgical errors, and failures to diagnose a serious condition often entitle injured patients or their surviving family members to sue their doctor for medical malpractice. Especially if the results of the error are serious, interfere with your life, keep you from returning to work, or the injuries caused death, these lawsuits can bring substantial compensation. However, you may have a very limited time to file your case before your claim is barred. If you were injured by or lost a loved one to medical malpractice in Utah, contact Salt Lake City medical malpractice lawyer Darwin Overson of Overson Law, PLLC today.
Utah’s Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
A “statute of limitations” is a rule that prevents you from filing a particular type of case too long after the event occurred. In Utah, there are statutes of limitations which prevent criminal charges from coming too long after the event, and civil statutes of limitations that prevent personal injury cases, contract cases, and other claims from being filed too late. Most personal injury cases in Utah carry a 4-year statute of limitations. This gives you until the end of 4 years to file most personal injury cases, such as car accident injury cases, slip and fall cases, and others injury lawsuits.
Medical malpractice cases only have a 2-year statute of limitations in Utah. This means that your case must be filed with the courts within two years after the date you “discover” your injury. This “discovery rule” is somewhat complex. While most injury cases must be filed within a time period that starts on the date of injury, medical malpractice cases’ time limits start on the date you know you were injured. Some medical cases can be difficult on the body, and you may not have your wits about you for days after the accident. In other cases, the pain or discomfort may be immediately obvious, but you may not know that the cause of the pain was medical error. Because of this, Utah may allow you additional time before the clock starts running on your statute of limitations.
It is common in many cases to have pain, discomfort, or other issues after surgery or other procedures. In cases based on surgical errors, you may not know that the doctor committed any errors if they do not tell you. Other cases, such as failure to diagnose cases are more complex. If your doctor fails to diagnose cancer or a heart attack, you could go days, weeks, or months before seeking a second opinion and discovering that your doctor missed the diagnosis. It should be at that point that the clock starts to run on your case, and your 2-year filing period begins.
The statute of limitations does not mean your case must finish within a 2-year period. Instead, you must merely file the case and start the legal process before the deadline is up. If you need additional time to clarify your issues, demand evidence from healthcare providers, and have your lawyer clarify your claims, you may be able to do this after filing.
Extending the Statute of Limitations in Utah Medical Malpractice Cases
Some situations give you extensions on the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations has two main exceptions under Utah Code 78B-3-404(2). The first is an exception for medical malpractice cases based on objects left inside during surgical procedures. Many times, sponges, gauze, or even medical tools are accidentally left inside the patient after surgery. In these cases, it can be nearly impossible for a patient to discover without undergoing further exams, X-rays or other tests. It may be years before a patient discovers that their ongoing stomach pain is actually a surgical sponge that has been in their abdomen since an old surgery.
If your case is based on an item left inside you, like a surgical sponge, you have 1 year to file the case after discovering the item. This also triggers if you should have discovered it. This means that if your doctor told you about it or said you need further tests to confirm it, but you ignored this advice, a court may decide you should have discovered the item at that time and start the 1-year clock. This 1-year period can begin even after the original 2-year period is over.
The same 1-year extension applies to cases where the doctor or hospital prevents you from discovering your injury. If you were injured or lost a loved one because of medical errors, and the hospital lies to you or changes the records to hide malpractice, you may get an extension to file your case. This kind of “fraudulent concealment” can entitle you to file a case after the 2-year statute of limitation runs, as long as you file within 1 year of the discovery.
Regardless of how many extensions you get, you can never file a case longer than 4 years after the incident under Utah’s “statute of repose.”
Salt Lake City Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Darwin Overson of Overson Law, PLLC is a Salt Lake City personal injury lawyer with decades of experience handling cases on behalf of injury victims. If you or a loved one was injured, or if you lost a loved one to medical malpractice, call today for a free consultation to find out what your medical malpractice is worth. Our phone number is (801) 895-3143.