What Is the Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice in Nevada?
Nevadan Brayden Smith was a five-time champion on the TV show “Jeopardy!” at just 24 years old. His life was cut short when a doctor failed to treat him properly following colon surgery. As a result, Brayden developed blood clots in his lungs and died just three short weeks after his procedure.
When a doctor or other medical provider fails to meet the standard of care for an illness or injury, the victim can pursue a civil claim for medical malpractice. This is a complicated category of law that falls under the umbrella of personal injury claims. Before you pursue a medical malpractice or medical negligence lawsuit in Nevada, it’s important to understand how the laws work and how long the statute of limitations lasts.
How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim in Nevada?
In the state of Nevada, the statute of limitations can depend on the situation. Generally, it is three years from the date when the medical provider caused the injury, but there is also a limitation of 1 year from the date the patient discovered (or should have discovered) the problem. The suit will be governed by whichever of these occurs sooner. This means that if a victim doesn’t realize they have a medical injury until after three years have passed, they are unable to file a suit against the doctor.
The medical industry spends a lot of time and money lobbying state legislators to pass bills favoring doctors and hospitals. These same hospitals and medical institutions also have tremendous financial and legal resources they can use to fight any claims against them. The odds are stacked against patients, so it’s important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as something goes wrong to ensure the victim has enough time to gather the evidence they need. It can take the full three years to put together everything needed for a strong claim.
What Is the Purpose of the Statute of Limitations?
Statutes of limitations are put in place to keep the justice system fair to all parties. Having a strong case for a lawsuit is important but so is bringing the suit in a timely manner to ensure evidence and documentation don’t degrade over time. Individuals are guaranteed a speedy trial to achieve justice and appropriate statutes of limitation is one part of that process.
Limits vary from state to state, and vary slightly within Nevada depending on the type of lawsuit that is filed. Courts will strictly uphold the statute of limitations for medical malpractice, including the requirement for an affidavit of merit, unless there are extremely rare circumstances.
What Is An Affidavit of Merit and Do I Need One to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
If a patient doesn’t like the outcome of a cosmetic surgery, they may be tempted to sue their surgeon. However, if the doctor did everything right according to the standard of care, it would be wasteful to sue because the patient is unhappy with a facelift. In Brayden Smith’s case, medical experts examining the data determined that the doctor failed to administer a necessary medication. He and the hospital staff also neglected to train Brayden on how to care for himself after surgery. In these situations, being able to sue for recovery is helping his family deal with the loss of their loved one.
In order to prevent frivolous or unfounded cases from reaching court, Nevada has created a requirement (NRS 41A.071) for filing an affidavit of merit before a plaintiff can file the actual lawsuit. This document must show proof that it:
- Supports the allegations in the civil action,
- Is submitted by a medical professional engaged in an area of medicine substantially similar to the type engaged in by the at-fault party at the time of the alleged negligence,
- Identifies each allegedly negligent healthcare provider by name, or describes them by their conduct, and
- Sets forth a factual account of a specific act or acts of the alleged negligence, listing each act separately regarding each defendant in simple, concise and direct terms.
In short, the affidavit is a legal document signed by the medical expert stating that they have reviewed the actions taken by the defendant, and that the expert’s opinion supports the plaintiff’s allegations of medical malpractice. Affidavits of merit protect doctors and hospitals from time-consuming and expensive litigation. On the other side of the case, they also provide additional evidence for victims when pursuing a lawsuit.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations?
In some instances, a statute of limitations can be “tolled,”or paused, when it is discovered that the healthcare provider knowingly concealed the action that caused an injury or death. The pause lasts as long as the provider conceals the malpractice and is only viable if the victim could not discover the mistakes or negligent actions because the doctor was hiding them.
Another situation where a statute of limitations can be delayed is one in which the victim is a minor. If the medical malpractice injures a child causing brain damage or a birth defect, the delay allows sufficient time for the parents to fully recognize the extent of the child’s injuries before they file a lawsuit. In these cases, the limit is extended until the child is 10 years old. Additionally, if the child is rendered sterile by medical malpractice, the time limit to file a suit is extended to 2 years after the child discovers the injury.
Other unusual circumstances can cause a court to toll the statute of limitations. If a defendant is facing an ongoing criminal case, a civil court can extend the statute until after the first case is decided. And in Nevada, the governor declared a state of emergency on March 12, 2020, which included a toll on any court cases until 30 days after the state of emergency is ended. Governor Sisolak ended the declaration on May 20, 2022.