As is the case with most personal injury lawsuits involving negligence, birth injury lawsuits must be filed within a specified period of time. Known as the statute of limitations, this time limit creates a strict deadline for pursuing a lawsuit against the party or parties that caused your child, or you, harm. Should that time limit expire, victims and families will be barred from pursuing legal action and recovering compensation for their damages.
Because the statute of limitations is an important factor in birth injury cases, it is important to know how it applies to your case so as not to compromise your right to financial compensation. Below are a few key facts you need to know.
- When it begins – In most cases, the statute of limitations begins on the date an injury occurs. In the context of birth injuries, this typically means the date of birth. However, there are some injuries that may not be readily apparent at birth, or even discovered for months or years into a child’s development. In these types of cases, many states take the discovery rule into account, which starts the statute of limitations on the date the injury was discovered, rather than when it was caused. In Texas, there are complex laws that cover this issue, and which extend the statute of limitations depending on who is injured.
- It may vary by state – Different states have different laws and rules of procedures, which is why you should always be aware of the statute of limitations in place in your state. In Texas, for example, the statute of limitations for most medical malpractice lawsuits is 2 years from the date of the incident. However, Texas does make exceptions when certain circumstances are involved, such as in cases where victims are minors. When minors are injured due to negligent acts, state law tolls (or delays) the statute of limitations to 2 years after the minor turns 18, meaning children may have until the age of 20 to file a birth injury lawsuit. However, Texas still enforces the standard statute of limitations in cases involving adults injured by medical malpractice (such as when a mother is injured due to preventable birth injuries), which could require families to bring a claim within 2 years from the date the injury occurred. Depending on the circumstances, experienced lawyers can help you understand which time limit applies to your case, and argue effectively to extend the statute of limitations when necessary.
- Disabilities – Birth injuries have the potential to result in severe mental and physical disabilities, and states often take this into account when adjusting the statute of limitations. For example, the statute of limitations is often tolled in many states (meaning it does not begin) until families discover a serious disability which may not present itself until later in life, such as in the case of cerebral palsy. This is generally why children have until the age of 20 to bring birth injury lawsuits in Texas, and why families may have the opportunity to argue for an extension of the statute of limitations when disabilities are involved in their case.
- Government entities – There may be exceptions to a state’s statute of limitations when injuries are caused by government entities, such as when injuries are caused by health care providers funded or employed by a local, county, or state agency. When this is the case in Illinois, there is a one year statute of limitations in place. A different statute of limitations may also apply in cases against the federal government, such as when birth injuries are caused by military hospitals, VA hospitals, and other federally funded health care providers. Under the Federal Torts Claim Act, birth injury victims have 2 years to file an administrative claim against the agency which committed negligence.
Because there are deadlines in place that can bar you from recovering compensation after a preventable birth injury, and because those deadlines can vary or are open to argument and extensions, taking steps to speak with an injury lawyer as soon as possible should be your top priority. Not only can timely action ensure your case is filed before the statute of limitations in your case runs out, it can also provide the time to thoroughly investigate your case, build a strong claim, and pursue the full compensation you deserve.
If you have questions about the statute of limitations in your birth injury case, or wish to discuss how our award-winning attorneys at Hampton & King can help you take the next steps, contact us for a free consultation.