How a Statute of Limitations Can Harm Special Needs Families

An unfortunate truth in America today is that there is a ticking clock behind almost every accident or crisis we face. When there is a potential legal claim tied to an injury, problem, or defect, all too often a second harm can occur by waiting too long to explore your options. As a result, the person or company that caused hardship in your life can actually be rewarded by your confusion and delay. Nowhere is this more unfair or life-altering than when a child is harmed due to medical negligence. In this instance, the expiration of a state’s statute of limitations can prevent a child and family from receiving the critical care and assistance deserved.

And that’s not fair.

A statute of limitations is the legal term used to describe the time period, starting from the date of the injury, that someone harmed through the fault of another can pursue a legal claim against the person, individuals, or organization that harmed them. The statute of limitations varies state-to-state – where residents of one state may only have a few years to sue, residents of another could have more than two decades. For some incidents, the need to take legal action may be relatively obvious: in the months after a car accident, it may be clear what damage was done to the vehicle or to the bodies of those involved in the incident and a lawsuit may result. Unfortunately, with birth injuries the harm may not be obvious right away, or even physically evident, until years down the road. That delay is what makes the expiration of the statute of limitations all the more troubling. Sometimes a family may only find out that action was needed after time has run out.

In reality, Cerebral Palsy may not reveal itself in a child until they start getting to, or missing, certain physical or verbal milestones. A limp or inability to use a limb or hand as expected is not always observable during infancy. Medical professionals, let alone parents, cannot be expected to immediately diagnose a child or toddler’s challenges with tasks as sign of a birth injury that will have a lifelong impact. Instead, the process of seeking out a Cerebral Palsy diagnosis will often come only after milestones are missed or issues become impossible to ignore. Even then, a CP diagnosis can be a slow and frustrating process for far too many families. And with each delay, valuable time continues to go by that not only pushes off potential early intervention therapy but also brings nearer the statute of limitations.

To be clear, not every case of Cerebral Palsy will result in a potential claim of medical error. There is a wide range of causes for CP, many of which do not involve any issues or problems caused by medical professionals. However, there are also far too many situations where Cerebral Palsy could have been preventable. When that happens, a child absolutely deserves the right to pursue Lifetime Benefits to cover decades of therapy, care, and more. But if the statute of limitations have expired, there is likely nothing that can be done to hold medical professionals accountable and ensure a child has what they need to pursue their full potential.

So, what can be done about unfair statute of limitations? Unfortunately, the answer is ‘not much.’ Cerebral Palsy advocates can push their elected officials to review and revise state limits on pursuing legal action in the event of medical error. Some states have changed their statute of limitations in recent years, though very rarely is this in the favor of families, instead shrinking rather than expanding the number of years available to take action. This trend show that a parent who suspects that medical error may be the cause of their child’s Cerebral Palsy must be proactive in exploring options quickly to avoid being victimized again.

For any parent who believes their child’s CP may have been caused by preventable events before, during, or after the child’s birth, a Medical Legal Review can provide critical answers. Conducted by medical and legal professionals specializing in birth injuries, a Medical Legal Review (provided by our organization free of charge) explores the pregnancy, delivery, and post-birth care of a child with Cerebral Palsy to determine if effective medical care was provided. If red flags are uncovered that indicate medical professionals failed to follow established norms in their care, we will help the family explore potential Lifetime Benefits. The name for a trust established to cover costs associated with decades of therapies, treatments, medical procedures, housing, education, assistive technology, and more for a child with Cerebral Palsy, Lifetime Benefits can be a critical aid in helping overcome a wide range of challenges. But if the statute of limitations pass before action is taken, Lifetime Benefits cannot be pursued, making the timing of looking into the cause of a child’s Cerebral Palsy all the more important.

For more information about CP, resources to assist a child with special needs and/or to request a Medical Legal Review to determine if Lifetime Benefits may be available, please fill out our online form or call us at (844) 808-7529 today.

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