Timeframe in being sued?


Does anyone know the average time between patient care and subpoena?

We are looking for information to tell our staff explaining the importance of charting to jog one's memory at time of deposition.

Tweety, BSN, RN

32,996 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac. Has 31 years experience.

I don't know. But both times I was contacted about cases where we were being sued, the cases were over two years old. Very hard to remember anything. But the lawyer read back my documentation over the phone and the lightbulb went off "yeah, I remember now.............". Weird to hear a lawyer read a copy of your notes from several years ago. :)


375 Posts

It can also depend on statues of limitations or the time limits upon which one can file a a medical malpractice lawsuit. It can range from 1 to 3 years depending on the state in which it is filed and begins on the day one is injured, or on the day the injury is discovered.

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

153 Articles; 21,232 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 31 years experience.

It varies tremendously. I was contacted for a deposition 8 years after the fact (it was before I became a nurse). The lawyers tracked me from Alaska to Korea to Las Vegas.

TiffyRN, BSN, PhD

2,315 Posts

Specializes in Nurse Scientist-Research. Has 30 years experience.

One joy with pediatric/neonatal is that they (or their guardians) can file suit something like 2 years after they turn 21. My memory is definately not that good, I will need to rely on what I charted.

mommatrauma, RN

470 Posts

Specializes in ER.

I have a deposition in 3 weeks on a case that happened 5 years ago...my last deposition was canceled but that was from a case 6 years prior...


158 Posts

I was contacted approximately one year after an incident occurred. It has made me very conscientious about my charting. After giving several depositions and testifying in the court trial--I decided I never wanted to be involved in a lawsuit again. Although I was not the defendant, I realized that it can become a blame game and if your charting is not what it should be you could become a party in the suit.


259 Posts

Does anyone know the average time between patient care and subpoena?

We are looking for information to tell our staff explaining the importance of charting to jog one's memory at time of deposition.

It depends, as someone said, on the limitations set by your state. But good for you for talking about this- good charting is essential when lawsuits happen years later- I know it helped me when I had to give a deposition about something that happened several years previously- I was really glad I had charted thoroughly on that patient!

GrnHonu99, RN

1,459 Posts

Specializes in Neuro, Critical Care.


In class last week my prof. (who was an L&D nurse for 15 years prior to obtaining her PHD) told us that 21 years ago when she first started out in L&D she had to make one of those very hard ethical decisions...well, she technically could have lost her liscence over it and was very upset....it had to do with a cesearin section and informed consent....she consulted a lawyer and was advised that the gaurdians or the child can still sue her up to 21 years after the incident....she says this september will mark the 21 yr line for her.

Daytonite, BSN, RN

4 Articles; 14,603 Posts

Specializes in med/surg, telemetry, IV therapy, mgmt. Has 40 years experience.

As a medical records student I can't tell you about exact statute of limatations because I think one of the other posts was correct in that it varies and is determined by when the injury is discovered although I always thought that there was a two year window.

From a medical record point of view, the medical record in California (which is where I live) must be kept, by law, for a minimum of 7 years and then it may be destroyed. The exception to this is for the records of minor children. They must be kept until one year past their age of majority and that is to give them a chance to sue for anything happening to them as a minor.

Each state will have their own laws regarding the retention of medical records, but I would imagine that the legislators have considered the need to have these records available for lawsuits in framing these laws.


464 Posts

Specializes in Women's health & post-partum. Has 38 years experience.

A friend of mine (a pediatrician) lost a case because his office staff didn't chart adequately that the 2 or 3 year old child in question had

(!). never been seen for any well baby checks.

(2) had not had the newborn testing for metabolic disorders

(3) that the mother had been advised to follow through with well baby followups, immunizations, etc.

The mother came back a few years later, sued and won because her child was hypothyroid, with all the attendant problems.

The child was being seen in the Dr.s office for the first (and last) time for an ear infection and was, of course, lethargic. Difficult to diagnose cretinism under those circumstances.

It's good to see that you're emphasizing the importance of adequate charting.

Timeframe in being sued?

Does anyone know the average time between patient care and subpoena?

We are looking for information to tell our staff explaining the importance of charting to jog one's memory at time of deposition

Specializes in Neurology, Cardiology.

I remember something from my Medical Ethics class about a certain amount of years after the first symptoms are identified...there was an exception for children. Varies state to state. So if you have a treatment done, and 1 year later you have symptoms that are not part of the side effects that were identified, you can see a lawyer and the clock for statute of limitations clicks then...

Here is an explanation for the state of FL...just googled it.


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