Understanding Kentucky's Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

There is a one year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in Kentucky.

October 26, 2021



What is the medical malpractice statute of limitations in Kentucky?

There is a one year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in Kentucky. This limitation is found in Kentucky Revised Statute § 413.140(1)(e), which states:

413.140 Actions to be brought within one year.

(1) The following actions shall be commenced within one (1) year after the cause of action accrued:

... (e) An action against a physician, surgeon, dentist, or hospital licensed pursuant to KRS Chapter 216, for negligence or malpractice;

This means a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice must be filed no later than one year after the negligent act or omission occurred or it will be considered time-barred. There are many nuances to this one year deadline, which are set forth in Kentucky case opinions. For this reason, it is important to speak with an attorney if you believe grounds may exist for a medical malpractice claim.


When does Kentucky's medical malpractice statute of limitation begin to run?

As a general rule, the medical malpractice one year limitation period begins to run (accrue) on the date an injury occurs. But there are several exceptions to this rule. A few of those exceptions are as follows:

Discovery Rule - Under the "discovery rule," the one year limitation period does not begin to run until the plaintiff discovers his or her injury. For this exception to apply, the injury must have been not immediately evident or discoverable with the exercise of reasonable diligence.

Age of Majority - The one year limitation period does not begin to run until the plaintiff is an adult. In Kentucky, age 18 is considered the legal age of majority. Therefore, a plaintiff can file a medical malpractice lawsuit any time on or before his or her 19th birthday, regardless of whether a year has passed since the injury.

Mental Disability - The one year limitation period does not begin to run against a person who is mentally disabled until the disability is lifted. This scenario could happen where traumatic brain injury has occurred, or where a plaintiff was rendered unconscious due to surgery or coma. In other instances, individuals with permanent intellectual disabilities may have an indefinite period in which to file a medical malpractice claim.

Continuous Treatment - Under the "continuous treatment doctrine" (sometimes called the "continuing care doctrine"), the one year limitation period does not run while treatment is ongoing with the provider against whom the medical malpractice claim exists. Importantly, this exception only applies as to provider against whom suit is being brought, and for injuries arising out of the alleged malpractice. For example, ongoing follow-up treatment with a doctor at his or her office would not toll claims against a hospital for an injury that occurred during treatment at the hospital.

Wrongful Death - When damages are sought for medical malpractice that caused the death of another, the personal representative of the deceased party has one year to file a wrongful death lawsuit after being appointed to serve by the probate court. If no representative has been appointed within one year of death, the limitation period automatically begins to run, and the personal representative one year from the anniversary date to file the lawsuit. In other words, when medical malpractice has resulted in death, the one year limitation period can possibly be extended up to an additional year. Critically, this extension does not apply to other claims that may be associated with the event in question. For example, a spouse or minor child seeking damages for loss of consortium arising out of the same event is not extended.



Application of Kentucky's statute of limitations to your case.

You should take limited comfort in any statute of limitation exception that might apply to your case. Each case is unique and courts will carefully consider the particular facts of your case before granting an exception. Remember, the general rule is one year. A plaintiff who files a lawsuit after the one year anniversary of an injury should expect a fierce, lengthy battle on the issue of whether the case should be allowed to proceed.

If you have questions about the application of Kentucky's statute of limitations to your case, contact us as soon as possible to protect your rights.