Hawaii Medical Malpractice: Statute of Limitations and Award Limits


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For anyone considering a medical malpractice claim in Hawaii, there are a few state laws to keep in mind. Here you’ll find a discussion of the “statute of limitations” for starting a medical malpractice case in Hawaii, and a few more state laws that could have an impact on your case.

Note on Medical Malpractice Statutes of Limitations and Award Limits

The “statute of limitations” is the legal term for the deadline the person suing (the plaintiff) has to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a health care provider.

One factor that can complicate filing deadlines in medical malpractice cases is the special requirements a plaintiff sometimes must fulfill before he or she can sue for medical malpractice. Failure to take the proper steps could postpone when the suit can be filed, and could cause the plaintiff to miss the statute of limitations deadline. Finally, it can often be difficult to determine when the clock started running and what the deadline actually is. So it is crucial to pay attention to all applicable state laws.

Medical malpractice damage awards, i.e. how much money an injured plaintiff can receive in a lawsuit, are also limited or “capped” in some states. Both the strict statute of limitations and the damage caps are the result of states’ efforts to lower the cost of medical malpractice liability insurance.

The rules affecting all of these issues in Hawaii are discussed below.

Basic Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations in Hawaii is Two Years from Discovering the Injury or Six Years from When Malpractice Occurred

In Hawaii, you must start a medical malpractice lawsuit -- get the initial complaint filed in the local branch of the state's civil court system, in other words -- within two years of discovering the injury or, at the latest, six years from when the malpractice occurred.

To put the "discovery rule" caveat another way, even if you couldn’t have discovered the injury within six years, the case will be thrown out if you try to sue the health care provider more than six years after he or she caused the injury. The only exception is for the care provider’s fraudulent concealment of the malpractice, i.e. intentionally deceiving you so you don’t discover the malpractice. In that event, the statute of limitations is “tolled”, i.e. put on pause, until the malpractice is discovered.

If the injured patient is under 10 years old, they have six years or until their tenth birthday to sue, whichever is later. If they are older than 10 but younger than 18, they have six years from the date the injury occurred to sue. If the minor’s injuries could not be discovered, the statute of limitations is tolled until the injuries are discoverable.

The basic laws for Hawaii Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations can be found at HRS § 657-7.3.

Effect of Pre-Suit Requirements on the Statute of Limitations

In Hawaii, a plaintiff is required to file the case with a pre-trial screening panel or submit the case to arbitration. Once either one of these has happened, the statute of limitations is tolled and remains tolled for 60 days after a decision. If the proceedings are not completed within 12 months, the statute of limitations starts up where it left off and the plaintiff can sue in court. (Learn more about Medical Malpractice Arbitration.)

Hawaii Caps Pain and Suffering Damages at $375,000

Hawaii does not have a damages cap statute that applies specifically to medical malpractice cases, but a plaintiff in any tort action in Hawaii (including medical malpractice cases) cannot collect more than $375,000 for pain and suffering damages. According to the statute, other damages like mental anguish, disfigurement and loss of enjoyment of life are not capped. Other “concrete” damages like medical bills are also not capped.

The basic laws for Hawaii Tort Damage Caps can be found at HRS § 663-8.7.

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