Medical Malpractice

What is the Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Kentucky?

By David Goguen, J.D., University of San Francisco School of Law
Comply with the filing deadline set by Kentucky's statute of limitations, or your medical malpractice lawsuit will almost surely be dismissed as time-barred.

If you think you've been injured by a health care provider’s error in Kentucky, you typically have the option of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in the state's courts. One of your first considerations is making sure you get the case started in accordance with the filing deadline set by state law -- specifically, the statute of limitations.

A statute of limitations is a state law that puts a strictly-enforced time limit on a potential plaintiff's right to have a court consider a lawsuit. There are different time limits for different kinds of cases. In this article, we'll summarize the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Deadline for Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

The statute of limitations for Kentucky medical malpractice lawsuits is set by Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.140(1)(e), which sets a one-year time limit for filing "an action against a physician, surgeon, dentist, or hospital...for negligence or malpractice." That means most situations where a licensed hospital or licensed health care professional made a negligent error in providing care (or failing to provide care) to a patient.

When does the one-year clock start running? Section 413140 says "the cause of action shall be deemed to accrue" -- and the on-year "clock" will start running -- "at the time the injury is first discovered or in the exercise of reasonable care should have been discovered.” In other words, once you actually find out (or should have known, in the eyes of the law) that you were harmed by a health care provider's mistake, you have one year to get any medical malpractice lawsuit filed against the provider.

But keep in mind that, as the plaintiff, in order to pause the start of the one-year period beyond the date of the commission of the underlying medical error, you'll have the burden of showing that the injury wasn't reasonably discoverable right away.

Finally, Kentucky follows a five-year "statute of repose" in medical malpractice lawsuits, which acts as a larger over-arching deadline. This rule says that you can’t rely on any "discovery" extension once five years have passed since the date of the medical error. In other words, even if the medical error or the resulting injury wasn't reasonably discoverable, if more than five years have passed since the medical error, you're barred from filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

(More: Do I have a medical malpractice case?)

What If You Miss the Filing Deadline?

If you try to file your Kentucky medical malpractice lawsuit any time after the applicable statute of limitations deadline has passed, the health care provider you're trying to sue (the defendant) will almost certainly ask the court to dismiss your case as time-barred. And the court is sure to grant the dismissal, unless an exception to the deadline applies

Statute of Limitations Exceptions in Kentucky

There are a few special situations that could serve to alter or extend the filing deadline for a medical malpractice lawsuit in Kentucky.

First, if the patient is under a "legal disability" at the time of the medical error, he or she will have the full one year period to file the lawsuit once that period of disability ends. In Kentucky, a patient would be considered to be under a disability if he or she is:

  • an infant (under the age of 18), or
  • of unsound mind (having been declared legally incompetent, for example).

So, once the patient turns 18 or is declared legally competent, the one-year clock starts ticking. This rule can be found at Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.170.

And according to Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.190, if the health care provider is a resident of Kentucky and "by absconding or concealing himself or by any other indirect means obstructs the prosecution of the action" (including by fleeing the state) the period of absence or concealment probably won't be counted as part of the time limit for filing the medical malpractice suit.

If you have questions about filing a medical malpractice case in Kentucky, an experienced lawyer will have the answers. Learn more about choosing the right medical malpractice lawyer.

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