The National Conference of State Legislatures explains that all states have established laws under which patients may pursue medical malpractice claims. The NCSL also notes that all states have created statutes of limitations for such lawsuits. If a statute of limitations runs out on a claim, the victim cannot pursue legal action against a healthcare provider. As such, it is important for Rhode Island residents to understand how long they have to bring a malpractice lawsuit.
According to Rhode Island state law, medical malpractice lawsuits have a statute of limitations of three years. The clock for this time limit generally begins counting down when the incident which caused the injury occurred.
Some injuries may not be immediately apparent. In such situations, the statute grants some leeway. The law requires that the clock starts when the malpractice incident should have been discovered if reasonable diligence was employed. The below example will help to illustrate how this works.
A patient experiences persistent back pain. In March 2015 that person seeks assistance from a physician, who fails to diagnose the patient with cancer. A proper diagnosis is not made until August of that year. The patient would arguably have until August of 2018 to initiate a lawsuit.
There are certain situations in which the statute of limitations may be extended. For example, underage victims may bring a malpractice lawsuit within three years of reaching legal adulthood. If, for instance, a 15-year-old suffers an injury due to medical misdiagnosis, that person has until the age of 21 to initiate a lawsuit. This is because the statute of limitations will not start running until the victim reaches 18 years of age.