The statute of limitations is an important concept that determines the window in which you can take legal action against someone who has wronged you. The length of time you have available to pursue legal action in a civil case can vary based on your location, the type of incident, and the exact circumstances of your case.
In Georgia, the statute of limitations for most civil lawsuits is two years from the date of the incident. However, the statute of limitations can be adjusted or subject to special rules depending on the type of case. When it comes to medical malpractice cases in Georgia, there are certain situations that can change the timeline.
Medical Malpractice Laws in Georgia
To understand the statute of limitations for Georgia medical malpractice claims, it’s important to establish what exactly constitutes legally actionable medical malpractice in the State of Georgia.
Medical malpractice occurs any time a medical professional, such as a doctor, nurse, or surgeon, is negligent or incompetent in their duties to their patient. For a legally actionable medical malpractice case to be established, this poor performance by the healthcare provider must be demonstrated to have caused injury or damages to the patient.
Georgia can be one of the more difficult states in which to file a medical malpractice claim due to the state’s “Affidavit of Expert” requirement. This means that when you file your initial complaint against the healthcare provider who injured you, this paperwork must also include a signed statement by a qualified medical expert outlining the ways in which the doctor or healthcare system being sued was negligent (and offering a sound basis for that opinion). Failing to provide this expert affidavit will most likely result in your medical malpractice case being dismissed without ever going before a judge.
In certain situations, such as if you have not yet acquired an expert affidavit but the statute of limitations on your case is running out, you can petition the court to grant you more time to seek out a medical professional willing to prepare the required affidavit.
The Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice in Georgia
Most medical malpractice cases (and other personal injury matters) in Georgia are subject to a standard two-year statute of limitations. This means that you must file your initial complaint within two calendar years of the date of the injurious incident. This can become something of a gray area in medical malpractice cases. Unlike a car accident, where trauma is usually noted the same day of the accident, certain types of medical malpractice injuries can pop up months or years after you’ve visited the doctor.
For this reason, courts may offer extensions or leniency on a case-by-case basis when it comes to medical malpractice claims. Even with a flexible judge and extraordinary circumstances, Georgia state law does put a hard cap on the statute of limitations. According to Georgia law, a medical malpractice action cannot be brought to court under any circumstances once five years have passed from “the date on which the negligent or wrongful act or omission” that caused the injury took place.
There is only one exception that supersedes this maximum five-year cap, and this is related to medical malpractice cases where a foreign object has been left inside a patient’s body (such as during surgery). In these unique cases, the statute of limitations works completely differently, and the lawsuit must be brought within one year of the medical negligence being discovered. This means a case could potentially be brought for a piece of a surgical tool left inside of a patient’s body during a procedure ten years ago. However, a one-year clock begins ticking as soon as the foreign object is discovered.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Medical Malpractice in Georgia
Q: What Is the Cap for Medical Malpractice in Georgia?
A: While Georgia is one of the states that doesn’t cap the potential damages on routine personal injury claims in civil court, medical malpractice cases work a little differently. There is a $350,000 cap for non-economic damages related to any one single medical malpractice claim. If more than one health care system is deemed liable for the injury, this can potentially be doubled to $700,000.
Q: How Long Do I Have to File My Claim After Being a Victim of Medical Malpractice?
A: Most medical malpractice claims (and other civil court suits) in Georgia are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. Extensions may be granted in certain cases, but only up to a maximum of five years. One notable exception occurs when the malpractice claim is related to a foreign object (such as a surgical tool) found inside of your body. In this case, claims can potentially be brought many years later, but you have a one-year statute of limitations from the moment you discover the foreign object.
Q: Do I Need a Lawyer to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?
A: There is no legal requirement to be represented by a lawyer in Georgia courts. However, medical malpractice can be an extremely complicated matter. Having the expert legal team at Lamar Law Office, LLC on your side can make a big difference when it comes to seeking the maximum compensation for what you’ve been put through.