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A review of Hawaii's medical malpractice statute of limitations

When a doctor makes a mistake during a surgical procedure, the error may be discovered immediately. For example, it is very clear when a patient suffers a wrong-site surgical error because they may come out of their procedure to see that their operation was performed on the wrong side of their body. However, not all medical mistakes are obvious at the time they occur. In some cases, affected patients may not know that they are victims of medical malpractice for a number of months or even years.

As such, Hawaii's medical malpractice statute of limitations is somewhat flexible. A patient has at least two years from the time that they should have reasonably discovered the mistake to file their claim; that may be extended to a maximum of six years.

Consider this example. A patient must have surgery to remove their gall bladder. During the procedure the medical professionals working on their operation fail to remove all of the surgical gauze that they placed in the patient to control bleeding. The patient was sent to recovery and then home with the gauze still in their body.

After two months the patient developed an infection and related medical trauma. The diagnosis of the surgical mistake was not discovered for another month, at which point the patient was three months removed from their original procedure. Since it was reasonable for the patient to find out the cause of their post-surgical distress sometime after their procedure, the statute of limitations in their case may not begin until that point in time.

All medical malpractice and personal injury cases are subject to a statute of limitations. Any individual who may have suffered harm at the hands of others should investigate when their right to sue may end due to the statute of limitations relevant to their case. Taking the time to obtain this information not only helps protect his or her rights but also helps them take action to recover damages for the harms suffered.

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