In Missouri, you have five years to sue your architect, lawyer or accountant, but you have only two years to sue your doctor, hospital, nursing home, dentist or other healthcare provider. Section 516,105 R.S.Mo. and similar legislation in many states gives a patient a very limited amount of time to 1) discover that he has been the victim of a questionable medical decision, action or omission; 2) obtain counsel to evaluate the claim; 3) obtain all relevant medical records, a process which often takes months and costs hundreds and even thousands of dollars, and 4) obtain an evaluation through counsel, and usually through an expert witness (a doctor hired to help the patient’s attorneys evaluate the claim).
Because of all of these requirements, and the delays and expenses they generate, and because of the expense of these cases (expert witness fees alone frequently in the tens of thousands and sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the number of experts and the complexity of the case) it is absolutely crucial that a malpractice claimant obtain counsel as soon as possible. No delay in obtaining a qualified attorney is justifiable. Typically attorneys will not take on the risk associated with evaluating a case that is on the brink of extinction by reason of the statute of limitations. Thus waiting until late in the game is extremely risky and ill-advised.