Some birth injuries in a newborn are clear and some only become obvious when the child is a toddler or even older. Given that medical knowledge advances and techniques change, it could be decades before science links a person’s disabilities to their birth process.
So, how long after someone’s birth can you file suit for injuries that they suffered due to medical malpractice committed during or around the time they were born?
No “wiggle room” in statutes of limitations
Statutes of limitations are strict deadlines for legal action, often measured from the time of the wrongdoing. After the deadline passes, you are out of luck and cannot file a lawsuit. These laws are often quite simple, sometimes yielding results that seem obviously unjust to most people. But the limitations hold.
For example, the statute of limitations in Ohio for medical malpractice is normally one year. A mother injured by malpractice during childbirth has one year to file, just as she does if a careless dentist or foot doctor caused an injury. If she notifies the doctor that a suit is on its way before the deadline passes, she might get another 180 days.
Still, such answers about statutes of limitations get a bit complicated in some cases, mainly because too short a time limit is just too unreasonable (or unpopular with voters) if lawmakers do not tweak them.
When the injury is discovered and who files can matter
The time limit for parents to sue for a child’s injury during birth is also one year, with the 180-day extension.
However, if the nature of the injury causes the parents not to recognize the child’s injury, they have until one year after they do realize. Even this leeway ends on the child’s fourth birthday.
But never mind the parents. Does the child herself or himself have any legal rights? They do, and the timer on the child’s one-year statute of limitations starts ticking when the child is no longer a child. That is, the child can file suit until their 19th birthday (meaning one year after reaching the “age of majority,” which is 18 years).
There a few other time limits that may be valuable or interesting to read about. For example, there are other stories to tell if the suit is over a device or drug used in the medical procedures.
But in the end, it is critically important to begin exploring your legal options as soon as you suspect you will need them. Memories, records and the lives of witnesses also expire, and not according to a statutory timeline. Information fades and the information may well be your most valuable asset in a malpractice suit.