In an effort to protect the rights of Connecticut minors, there is a legislative bill currently before the Connecticut legislature that seeks to extend the statute of limitations for minors injured as a result of negligence, including personal injuries caused by medical malpractice. Senate Bill 1028 aims increase the time period in which an action for medical malpractice or negligence can be brought on behalf of a minor.
Under current law, an action brought on behalf of a minor for injuries sustained from medical malpractice must be done within two years of when the family knew or should have known that negligence or malpractice occurred and led to a child’s injuries, and is forever barred in court three years after the injury occurred. This harsh rule has stopped countless families from enforcing their children’s rights and has allowed medical providers and others responsible for a child’s health and well-being to avoid responsibility for injuries they cause if this short timing requirement has not been met based solely on a technicality in the law.
The current law fails to take into account the many reasons why it could take more than two or three years for a family to realize that they have a meritorious claim for injuries to their children. For starters, a young child who is still developing is not going to appreciate their own injuries, especially if that is all they have ever known since birth. In addition, many of the most severe injuries to children occur at birth as a result of malpractice during pregnancy and labor/delivery. Sometimes, these injuries are clear at the time a child is born but often that is not the case. A baby may appear fine while they are very young, but cognitive deficits and other developmental disabilities may take years to fully manifest themselves.
Further, birth injuries can require millions of dollars for lifetime treatment, and the medical providers responsible are not likely to advise families to pursue a lawsuit to recover damages to pay for a child’s lifetime care. Therefore, in many situations it is only years later that a doctor points out that something may have gone wrong, or a friend or family member suggests that someone should speak to a lawyer to determine whether a lawsuit should be brought on behalf of a minor child. The last thing a family is thinking about when they are trying to care for their injured child is whether that child may have the right to bring a lawsuit. If this proposed amendment passes, it will protect a minor’s right to recover for injuries they have to live with for the rest of their life, without barring lawsuits simply because a child’s parents may be more focused on their child’s health instead of the legal requirements associated with their child’s injuries.
This proposed amendment affords the most basic of protections to Connecticut’s children. It simply protects a child’s pre-existing rights by extending the time within which he or she can exercise them. The amendment does not create a new legal cause of action, meaning that it does not expand the reasons for which a minor may recover for negligence or medical malpractice.
Connecticut’s Senate has already voted in favor of extending the statute of limitations for minors, and the House is due to vote in the very near future as to whether the proposed amendment will become the new law. For the sake of Connecticut’s children and their families, we at Berkowitz and Hanna LLC is hoping that Connecticut’s lawmakers appreciate the great benefit this amendment will provide as much as we do.
(Image by Cliff via Flickr.com)
—Erik Siegel, Esq., Berkowitz and Hanna LLC