Ask a Birth Injury Attorney: What Is the Statute of Limitations on a Birth Injury Lawsuit?
If you are in the devastating situation of realizing that your child has a permanent injury resulting from medical malpractice that occurred at the time of birth, you may be wondering if it’s too late to file a lawsuit. The impact of a birth injury might not be apparent until months or even years after the fact. If you are looking for a birth injury attorney in the Baltimore area, our firm is fully equipped to handle these difficult and often complex cases.
What Is a “Statute of Limitations”?
A statute of limitations refers to the maximum timeframe during which you can file a lawsuit. For a civil personal injury case like a birth injury lawsuit, you may have anywhere from two to five years from the day of your child’s birth to take legal action. The statute of limitations can vary widely depending on which state you live in.
How Long Do You Have to File a Lawsuit in Baltimore?
The state of Maryland actually has a relatively generous statute of limitations for birth injury lawsuits compared to most other states. It allows plaintiffs up to five years from the child’s birth date or three years from the actual discovery of malpractice to file a lawsuit. This is compared to the average two-year statute of limitations that exists for these cases in most other states.
Challenges That Are Unique to Birth Injury Lawsuits
What sets a birth injury lawsuit apart from many other personal injury lawsuits is that the devastating effects of a birth injury might not become apparent until long after the child’s birth. This type of lawsuit is more straightforward when the effects on the child are evident right after birth, but this is often not the case. It is not uncommon for a diagnosis to be delayed until a child is at an age where they should be walking, talking, or meeting other developmental milestones.
Thankfully, it is recognized in the medical community that the effects of a birth injury can take time to present themselves, which is why the law allows extra time for these cases to be filed. Still, it is important to take action as soon as possible if there is any suspicion of medical negligence. An experienced birth injury attorney will be able to help you navigate this process in a timely manner.
How to File a Birth Injury Claim
Working with a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney who specializes in birth injury is your best bet when it comes to having a successful outcome in your case. The first step is to schedule a consultation, during which the attorney can determine if you have a case and if it is within the statute of limitations for your state. A child injury attorney will also be able to give you an honest assessment of how solid your case is.
If it is determined that you do have a viable lawsuit, your attorney will immediately get to work building a case against the doctors and other medical staff who were involved in your child’s delivery. A mediation process will ensue, but if a settlement can’t be reached then the case will go to trial.
Building Your Case
Your attorney will need as much information as possible to build a strong case that will hold up in a court of law. Your claim must be able to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that medical professionals did not maintain a proper standard of care during the labor and delivery process, and/or immediately after the child’s birth.
Gathering as much evidence as possible to substantiate your claim is key. A qualified attorney will talk to medical experts, interview witnesses who were present at the time of birth, and will review medical documentation related to the child’s injuries.
Negotiating a Settlement
A settlement provides the plaintiff with a lump sum of money and marks the official end of the dispute. While there is no winner or loser when a settlement is reached, it allows for a much quicker resolution to the case.
Going to trial might result in a larger reward for the plaintiff, but you run the risk of losing and not receiving any compensation at all. While a settlement is certainly the quicker and easier route, some parents feel so wronged that they wish to pursue their case to the greatest extent of the law. A qualified attorney who specializes in birth injury will be able to help you decide which option is best for you.
Reasons for Hiring a Birth Injury Attorney
If you are already dealing with the painful outcome of raising a child who has one or more disabilities resulting from a birth injury, you may ask yourself if you can handle the additional stress of finding an attorney and navigating the legal process to file a claim.
The reality is that caring for a disabled child comes with additional costs that can be prohibitive for most parents. A financial reward can go a long way towards covering the costs associated with physical or cognitive therapy, equipment or modifications for the home, and other healthcare expenses. A lawsuit might even reward the plaintiff for emotional damages (pain and suffering).
Your Child’s Quality of Life
The number-one reason to take legal action on behalf of your child is to improve your child’s quality of life. The financial reward you could potentially receive would not only help to ease the financial burden of caring for a child with special needs, and it would also allow you to invest in additional resources to make your child’s life better.
Your attorney can sit down with you to work out a “life care plan” that details the projected costs of your child’s care through to adulthood. This is a critical part of your legal planning that can help to determine the amount of compensation you will receive if you have a successful outcome.
Holding Doctors Accountable
Medical malpractice is a serious offense, and the physicians or other medical staff who are responsible for your child’s injury should have to take responsibility for their actions (or lack thereof). Taking legal recourse can help to ensure that justice has been served, and can protect other families from having to go through the same pain you and your child have had to endure.
Can Exceptions be Made to The Statute of Limitations?
In the case of a birth injury, there can be exceptions to the statue of limitations. Since birth injuries can take quite some time to diagnose, your attorney may take advantage of the “discovery rule,” which can extend the cut-off date for filing a claim if a parent did not know that their child retained a birth injury until after the statute of limitations had passed.
It is also worth noting that if the doctor (or other defendants) who delivered the child relocated outside the state for any length of time, the deadline could be extended accordingly. For example, if the defendant lived outside the state for two years, that could extend the statute of limitations by two years.
If you believe your child might be the victim of medical malpractice, contact us today at Peter Angelos Law in Baltimore, MD. Our expert legal team can determine if you may be entitled to compensation.