Act early if you think you’ve experienced medical malpractice

personal injury surgeon Most of us have a lot of respect for our doctors and trust them unconditionally. That’s why when we suffer a bad medical outcome, we’re reluctant to consider the possibility that our physician made a mistake. But if you think you or a loved one has suffered from medical malpractice it’s important to talk to a lawyer right away, because if you wait too long the statute of limitations will have run and you’ll lose your right to hold the provider responsible.

In fact, you should call an attorney even if you think it’s too late, because it might not be.

In a recent case from Massachusetts, a boy had tumor in his leg that a doctor tried to remove through a “radio frequency ablation” procedure. The procedure caused severe burning that required doctors to amputate the boy’s leg below the knee.

The parents ultimately tried to take the doctor to court, but more than three years had gone by since the procedure took place. (The doctor’s medical group was still treating their son all that time.) Massachusetts has a three-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, so a trial court judge dismissed the case.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed the ruling on appeal, adopting a “continuing treatment doctrine.” Under this doctrine, the clock does not start on the statute of limitations while the doctor is still treating the patient for the same condition or a related one. That doesn’t happen until either the treatment ends or the patient realizes that the physician’s substandard care caused the injury.

Massachusetts’ highest court later decided the boy’s parents still couldn’t bring their case because they should have known at an earlier time that the doctor’s conduct had hurt their son. Also, it said that even though the doctor’s group continued to treat the boy for more than three years after the procedure, the doctor himself did not.

Still, this decision shows that statutes of limitation don’t always work the way we think they do and it’s never too late to talk to a lawyer to find out what rights you might have.