Most legal causes of action in the state of Louisiana are similar to perishable products on a store shelf: they have what amounts to a "sell-by" date. The legal term for this period of time is known as a statute of limitations. Medical malpractice actions in this state are no exception to the statute of limitations requirement.
For these types of actions, the statute of limitations requires a prospective plaintiff to initiate a lawsuit based on one of two events:
When the alleged act of medical malpractice occurred; or when the plaintiff discovers the injury that resulted from the alleged act.
The statute of limitations takes into account a situation in which the injury that arises from a claimed act of medical malpractice has what amounts to a delayed effect: for example, if during a surgery, a surgical sponge is left inside of the patient, it may be weeks or even months before the patient begins to experience any symptoms that would indicate such an error had occurred.
The grace period for discovering an injury is not, however, indefinite. The statute of limitations ultimately imposes a restriction of three years after the date of the claimed act of malpractice, regardless of when the plaintiff discovered the injury.
Furthermore, the act explicitly disallows for any mitigating circumstances which a plaintiff may hope to claim to extend the time for filing a lawsuit past that three-year limitation. Thus, even victims of claimed malpractice who are mentally infirm or minors cannot use those conditions as an excuse for filing a lawsuit more than three years after the act.
This post offers only a general overview of the medical malpractice statute of limitations. All cases are fact-specific based on their own circumstances. While what is written here should not be taken as legal advice, if you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, to preserve your legal rights you should consult with a legal professional as soon as possible after making the discovery.