It is a cornerstone of Georgia law that medical professionals must pay compensation when they negligently injure someone.
If your doctor or another medical professional commits malpractice, you might be able to receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
However, Georgia law only gives you a limited amount of time to bring a lawsuit. This amount of time is set by the state’s “statute of limitations.”
Read on for more information about your rights.
Georgia’s Statute of Limitation for Medical Malpractice
Generally, Georgia Code § 9-3-71 gives patients only two years from the date of injury or death to bring a lawsuit for medical malpractice. The clock does not start running on the date you receive medical treatment unless you suffered an injury at that same time.
For example, consider the following:
- In surgery, a doctor makes a fatal mistake that costs your spouse his life. In this case, the death occurred on the same day as the surgery, so the clock starts to run on that date.
- In surgery, a doctor makes a mistake that severely wounds your spouse, who dies a month later. In this situation, the clock starts running at the date of death, not the date of surgery.
- A doctor prescribes medication that ultimately causes cancer two years later. The clock probably starts running on the date you developed cancer, which is the injury.
There are many exceptions to the statute of limitations, which we deal with below.
A Different Statute of Limitations for Foreign Objects
Doctors sometimes leave sponges, clamps, or other objects in a patient after surgery. Georgia Code § 9-3-72 sets a one-year statute of limitations in these cases. The clock starts ticking from the date you discovered the foreign object—not from the date of surgery.
The Statute of Repose
Georgia ultimately cuts off your right to sue after five years have passed from the negligent or wrongful treatment you received. This is called the statute of repose, and it limits your ability to sue.
For example, you might have received treatment 10 years ago that was negligent, which ultimately weakened your heart. If you suffer a heart attack, you might want to blame the doctor who treated you a decade earlier.
In this case, you might think the statute of limitations clock starts from the date of the heart attack, giving you two years to sue. However, the statute of repose cuts off your ability to sue because more than 5 years have passed since the doctor negligently treated you.
The statute of repose might sound unfair—because it is. Nevertheless, it is the law Georgia’s legislature passed.
Statute of Limitations for Minors
A separate Georgia medical malpractice statute of limitations applies to children. Children who suffer an injury might get additional time to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit. Under § 9-3-73, the statute of limitations cannot run out before a child’s 7th birthday. This means if your child is injured before turning 5, he or she can still sue up to age 7, even if more than two years have passed.
The statute of repose also cannot run out until your child reaches age 10. For example, your daughter might have received negligent medical treatment at age 3. Even though more than five years have passed since the treatment, she can still sue at age 9.
Questions? Please Call Us Today
Georgia’s statute of limitations for malpractice is complicated, and injured victims would do well to reach out to a qualified attorney as soon as possible. There is no time to delay.
To speak with an experienced Athens medical malpractice lawyer at Blasingame, Burch, Garrard, & Ashley, please contact us today.