There are many different situations where a person can be harmed as the result of a preventable mistake by a doctor or other medical professional. In many of these cases, although there was negligence, the injury is not significant enough to pursue legal action. However, when the malpractice causes serious harm or the death of a loved one, it may be necessary to commence a legal case. In order to do this, it is crucial to gather the relevant evidence and get the case filed within the statutory time period. If that time has run, the defendants will move to have the case dismissed and the judge has no choice other than to dismiss the case, regardless of how egregious the harm that was done.
Statute of Limitations in Iowa Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Every state has some type of limitation that controls whether or not a case can be filed in civil court. Most states have specific limits that apply to medical malpractice cases, providing an absolute bar to bringing a case after the clock has run. Under Iowa law, a person has two years from the date that a person learned about an injury caused by medical malpractice, or reasonably should have known with the application of reasonable diligence. See Iowa Code § 614.1. This often is referred to as the discovery date, which can differ from the date on which the negligent act or omission actually occurred. In essence, a person has two years from the time he learned about the harm to commence the lawsuit. However, there is a lot of investigation and evidence gathering that must happen before the complaint is filed, so this period is not as long as it might seem. There are other limits that also restrict when, and if, the case must be brought.
In addition to the two-year statute of limitations, there is another time period that applies to medical malpractice cases. Regardless of when the injury is discovered, there is an absolute limit of six years in which to commence a medical malpractice action from the date on which the negligent actions occurred. This six-year limit is known as a statute of repose. It is the reason a person has to be diligent in investigating the possible reasons for a medical condition or injury in order to make sure the case is brought before the courtroom doors slam shut. There are situations where a person could not have discovered the injury within this six year period and he simply is without recourse for the harm that he suffered.
Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
Although these limits are hard and fast for most victims of medical malpractice, there is a limited exception that applies in certain cases where a foreign object has been left in the patient after a surgery or other invasive procedure. This occurs when an item is left in the body where a doctor or other medical professional should have observed and removed the object upon the exercise of reasonable diligence. It may have occurred when surgical gauze or an instrument was left behind after a patient underwent surgery or when a piece broke off from a miniature camera or other device that is used on the patient. Regardless of how it happened, a person may commence a lawsuit after discovering the foreign object and the resulting harm. This individual has two years from the date of discovering the injury, which is not limited by the six-year statute of repose.
Another exception that exists under the law in Iowa is when the victim of the malpractice is under the age of eight years, there is a different law. If the child was injured due to medical malpractice at any age less than eight years of age, that child has until his or her tenth birthday or two years from the date of the injury to commence the litigation, whichever is later. However, if the parents of the injured minor want to assert claims on their own behalf, rather than simply as representatives for the minor child, then the case must be commenced within two years of the date of the discovery of the injury.
Stern Law, PLLC Advocates for Medical Malpractice Victims
A person who has suffered harm as the result of a preventable error made by a doctor or other medical professional has to pay careful attention to the running of the clock. It is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible in order to have the time necessary to prepare a compelling case. At Stern Law, PLLC, our attorney has fought hard for more than 30 years to recover compensation for patients who have been injured after placing their trust in the wrong medical professional or facility.
In addition to advocating on behalf of our clients to obtain the results that they need to deal with the consequences of the injury, we also provide information and answers for anyone who has been harmed, or believes he or she may have been injured, as the result of a medical professional’s negligence. We have knowledgeable representatives available to respond to questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of whether or not you are a client. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.