If your child suffered a birth injury, it might take some time to discover the full effects of the injury. It might not be until your child begins to develop slowly or misses out on developmental milestones that you even suspect a birth injury might have occurred. However, there are some strict deadlines to follow with your case.
Under Maryland law, medical malpractice cases usually must be filed within 3 years of discovering the injury. If the injury is not discovered for a few years, then it must be filed within 5 years of the injury at the outside maximum. However, special rules apply to injured minors – especially young children and infants – that push these time limits back so they do not start until later.
For help with your birth injury case, call the Maryland birth injury lawyers at Rice, Murtha & Psoras today at (410) 694-7291.
What is a Statute of Limitations?
A statute of limitations is a law that says when a case must be filed. Statutes of limitations are used for most criminal and civil cases, giving a set timeframe in which a case can be brought. Usually, these limits are in place so that claims cannot haunt people for years and follow them around without ever actually being resolved. It also ensures that, if someone has a claim that needs to be redressed by civil damages or criminal charges, they get it redressed quickly instead of sitting on their rights.
With birth injury cases, statutes of limitations can sometimes feel unfairly limiting because it can be so difficult to identify the harm and know where it came from. However, Maryland law does give quite a bit of time for parents and injured infants to get their claims filed and redressed in court.
What is the Maryland Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury Cases?
Maryland has a normal statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases, but special rules apply that extend the time limit for filing cases involving victims who were minors:
Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
Under Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 5-109(a), injuries caused by medical negligence must see the lawsuit filed within 3 years of the date you “discovered” the injury. In most cases, it is likely that the injury would be discovered right away, so 3 years is the typical deadline to file.
However, some cases cannot be discovered right away. This is especially common with birth injuries, where it might not be until years later when the baby begins having developmental issues that the parents actually discover the potential injury and medical malpractice. In cases where it takes longer to discover the injury, the deadline can be extended. However, there is an ultimate cap of 5 years.
Ultimately, this law simply says that whichever happens sooner is the deadline: 5 years of 3 years from discovery. Our Baltimore birth injury lawyers can often help injured infants and their families well beyond this time limit.
Extension for Minors Under 11 Years Old
Birth injuries happen at the moment of birth or in the following minutes and hours when the baby is no more than a day old in most cases. This means that birth injuries will often fall under an additional rule under § 5-109(b) for injuries to minors under the age of 11 years old.
If a child under 11 is the victim of medical malpractice, then the 3- or 5-year deadlines do not begin to run until the child turns 11. So for most birth injury cases, you will have until the child turns 14 (11 years old plus the 3-year statute of limitations period) before the case needs to be filed.
Extension for Minors Under 16
In a rare exception to the exception, some birth injuries could actually be filed up until the time the child turns 19 for injuries that happened to them before age 16. This would, again, include injuries that occurred at birth, but it only applies to certain categories of injury.
If your child suffered a qualifying medical injury, then the deadline would not start running until they turn 16, giving you until they turn 19 to file. But under § 5-109(c), this only applies to injuries to the victim’s “reproductive system” or injuries involving objects left inside the patient’s body.
Injuries to the reproductive system could cover unwanted surgeries on intersex infants. These surgeries are often performed without the parent’s knowledge, let alone consent, and many parents and patients later regret these procedures. Often, intersex people grow up not knowing these surgeries were performed and only discover the damage imposed on them after reaching puberty, making it helpful to have such a long extension on the statute of limitations.
Injuries involving retained objects are rare in birth injury situations and usually only happen to older patients when a sponge or tool is left inside the surgical site during an operation. However, it is possible similar negligence could occur if your baby needed surgery soon after birth.
How to Discover and Act on Birth Injury Cases Quickly After Your Child is Born
If your child was born with a birth injury because of the doctor’s negligence during the delivery, you will have to watch out for signs of disabilities, delayed development, and missed developmental milestones to see if the injury resulted in any harm. For some birth injury cases, the complications and mistakes are immediately reported, and parents can be informed about what signs to look for to judge the effects of these mistakes. In others, the parents only discover that there was a mistake in the first place when they start to notice issues with their baby’s development and go back and get additional information about the delivery.
If you suspect birth injuries or delayed development, take your child to another doctor for a second opinion. Also, contact our lawyers right away so that we can help you stay informed of other signs to look for and things to discuss with your doctor. In many cases, you can notice signs of things like cerebral palsy and other nervous, neurological, and delayed development issues that might stem from brain damage or nerve damage during delivery.
Although you might frequently have until your child turns 11 before the clock starts running on a birth injury case, it is better to file much sooner if you can. Waiting too long means evidence and records could be lost, and witnesses (such as nurses in the delivery room) might forget what happened. You could also miss out on damages that could help with your child’s added medical care needs during infancy and early childhood.
Call Our Maryland Birth Injury Attorneys Right Away
For a free review of your case, call the Parkville, MD birth injury attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras by dialing (410) 694-7291.