Washington State Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Time Limits

Time Limits for Medical Malpractice Cases in Washington State

Time limits for medical malpractice cases are referred to as the "statute of limitations". The statute of limitations is the time you have to file a lawsuit before it is barred. The statute of limitations in Washington for medical malpractice cases depends on the facts of each case. Most of the time limits are put forth in legal statutes or by previous legal decisions. You should consult with an attorney to determine what the statute of limitations on your potential case is. This is a quick guide with some general rules to help you understand a little bit about the time limits in Washington State.

For the statute of limitations, the time starts when the negligent act or omission occurs. Here are some important time limits to know:

  • The statute of limitations for medical negligence claims is generally three years. RCW 4.16.350. 
  • If the injury occurs due to the negligence of a federal medical provider, the federal statutes apply. The statute of limitations in these circumstances are shortened to two years. 28 U.S.C. 1346(b).
  • If there is a continuing course of negligent treatment with a medical provider that is uninterrupted, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the last negligent act. Caughell v. Group Health Co-op. of Puget Sound, 124 Wn.2d 217, 876 P.2d 898 (1994).
  • If negligence occurred before three years but was discovered after or should have been discovered, then there is a one-year statute of limitations from the date of discovery (known as the “discovery rule”). RCW 4.16.350.
  • The statute of limitations for an injury to a child does not begin to run until the child reaches 18 years of age, but the statute of limitations for the parents' potential claim runs at the time of injury. Schroeder v. Weighall, 179 Wn.2d 566, 316 P.3d 482 (2014).
  • A person can toll the statute of limitations by sending a “Request for Mediation” in good faith to the defendant(s). RCW 7.70.110.
  • The statute of repose (the latest time you can file a lawsuit) is eight years. RCW 4.16.350.

There are other statutes discussing various effects on the statute of limitations, including for people in the military, in jail, and others. In order to determine when the statute of limitations is in your potential case, contact an attorney.


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