Timing is crucial in any Louisiana personal injury lawsuit, and that may be especially true for medical malpractice cases. A recent case from another state helps illustrate the importance of deadlines and statutes of limitations.

A woman filed a medical malpractice suit against an orthopedic clinic, claiming that the facility negligently caused permanent nerve damage during a routine surgical operation. Under the law, the clinic had three weeks to respond to her claim, but it failed to do so. Representatives of the clinic said the woman’s claim went to its attorney, but he failed to alert them of the lawsuit. Because the clinic failed to file a response to the woman’s claim, the court submitted a default judgment, awarding the woman $2.5 million.

This case is highly unusual in some ways, and involves the law of another state. A more common scenario in Louisiana involves a plaintiff who waits too long to file a claim.

Under Louisiana law, the statute of limitations for personal injury is generally set at one year. This means that after a year has passed, the injured party loses the right to file a personal injury claim.

This 1-year statute of limitations can be a terrible deadline for people who have been injured in car accidents, slip-and-fall accidents and other common cases, but it can be especially tricky for people who have been injured through medical malpractice. Often, patients don’t realize they have been injured through medical malpractice until weeks or months after the injury. Particularly difficult are cases in which the medical malpractice consisted of a missed diagnosis, meaning that the medical negligence resulted in the patient’s condition getting worse.

Fortunately, Louisiana law generally recognizes in medical malpractice cases that the 1-year limit starts tolling not at the moment of the injury, but at the moment the plaintiff learns of it.

The most important thing for patients and their families to remember when they are considering a medical malpractice action is that their time is limited. It’s important to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.