Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed that a class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones (such as Cipro, Avelox and Levaquin) needed an additional black box warning to caution consumers about the heightened risk of aortic rupture and aortic dissection that users may face. The FDA also cautioned health care practitioners to only prescribe those drugs when the benefit outweighs the risk to the patient. In announcing this, it has become apparent that the risks from this class of drugs can sometimes manifest a significant period of time after ingestion.  This raises the question of what happens to the statute of limitation in cases involving improper prescription of fluoroquinolones or any other class of drugs that cause injury after a period of latency.

What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Alaska?

Simply put, Alaska law allows a medical malpracticesuit to be filed when an injury is caused by the negligence or willful misconduct of a healthcare provider. To be successful, an injured party must prove:

  • The degree of knowledge or skill possessed or the degree of care ordinarily exercised under the circumstances by health care providers in the field or specialty in which the defendant was practicing
  • The health care provider either lacked the appropriate skill or knowledge or failed to exercise the appropriate degree of care and 
  • The lack of knowledge or skill or failure to exercise the appropriate degree of care was the proximate cause of the injury.

Bear in mind, however, that while the above summary sounds simple, medical malpractice cases are amongst the most complex types of lawsuits.

How Long do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

Ordinarily, in Alaska, you have two years to file a lawsuit for a personal injury, including medical malpractice. This is known as the statute of limitations. However, because it is recognized that not all injuries from medical malpractice are immediately apparent, the law contains special provisions for some cases of medical malpractice.

The Discovery Rule

The first exception to the two-year statute of limitations is known as the discovery rule. In essence this rule means that the two-year statute only begins running once it is discovered or should have been discovered that the injury was caused by medical malpractice. This is simply because not all injuries show themselves immediately and that, using the example of the fluoroquinolones above, certain drugs can have negative results as the use of the drug becomes additive.

The Minors Exception

Another exception to the two-year statute of limitations involves minors. Alaska law provides that a minor can file a claim if he or she is injured by medical malpractice up to two years and one day after his or her 18th birthday.

Statute of Repose

There is another limitation of the time allowed to file suit. It is known as the statute of repose.  This means that you have a limit of 10 years from the act alleged as malpractice to file suit, regardless of discovery or latency, although there are exceptions to this rule, as well.

Not only are the facts surrounding medical malpractice cases complicated, the law concerning how long you have to file a lawsuit is complex, as well. If you suspect you or a loved one was the subject of medical malpractice, you need to protect your rights. The surest way to do so is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. The skilled legal professionals at Power & Power Law in Anchorage have the experience you need to get the results you deserve. Give us a call today at either 907-222-9990 or toll free at 833-669-9990 or by clicking here to set up your initial consultation.