If you think you have a medical malpractice case in Connecticut, you are probably wondering which state laws might affect your claim. In this article, we'll spotlight some key Connecticut laws that might come into play in a medical malpractice case, including time limits for filing a lawsuit.
All states have very specific deadlines for filing medical malpractice lawsuits. These deadlines are called statutes of limitations. Medical malpractice statutes of limitations can be complex because they may contain as many as three or four separate deadlines. We'll cover these in the following sections.
The first part of the statute of limitations is the standard deadline, which gives victims of medical malpractice a certain number of years after the malpractice occurred within which to file a lawsuit. The standard deadline in Connecticut is two years. If you do not file a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years after the malpractice occurred, you lose your right to sue for medical malpractice relating to the incident unless one of the exceptions created by the other parts of the statute of limitations applies to your case.
The second part of the statute of limitations is called the discovery rule, which is an exception to the standard deadline in situations where the victim could not reasonably have learned that he/she even had a medical malpractice case.
In Connecticut, under the discovery rule, the statute of limitations does not begin running until the date that the malpractice victim reasonably should have discovered the injury. From that date, you've got two years to file (that's when the clock on the standard deadline starts running).
The third part of the statute of limitations is the deadline for minors (children under age eighteen) or their parents or legal guardians to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. In Connecticut, unlike most states, there is no separate statute of limitations for minors.
The fourth part of the statute of limitations is sometimes called a statute of repose. Not all states have a statute of repose in medical malpractice cases, and not all states call them statutes of repose. A statute of repose imposes an absolute deadline to medical malpractice claims, regardless of when the victim discovered them. In Connecticut, the statute of repose is three years.
Connecticut has other exceptions to the statute of limitations that may apply in a medical malpractice case, depending on the circumstances. For example, the statute of limitations may be extended if the defendant left the state after committing the malpractice or fraudulently concealed the malpractice.
The Connecticut statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases can be found at Connecticut General Statutes section 52-584.
Some states have caps or limits on the amount of damages that can be awarded to a victim of medical malpractice. In Connecticut, there is no such cap.
In some medical malpractice cases, the defendant may argue that you are at least in part liable for causing your own injuries by, for example, failing to follow the doctor's instructions. If you go to trial and are found to be partially liable, that finding will reduce or even eliminate your damage award, depending on state law.
Connecticut follows a "modified comparative negligence" rule. This means, if you are found to be partially negligent with respect to your injury, illness, or medical condition, your award of damages is diminished in proportion to your fault. If, for example, you were awarded $100,000 in damages, but were found 20% at fault, your damages would be reduced to $80,000. However, if the jury finds that your fault is equal to or greater than the defendant's fault, you won't be entitled to recover any damages, and your case will be dismissed.
Many states have passed laws requiring plaintiffs' lawyers in medical malpractice cases to submit some proof of the defendant's negligence at the beginning of the case before they will be allowed to proceed with the lawsuit. This proof is usually in the form of a report containing the opinion of a physician that the defendant was negligent. In some states, the report is called the Certificate or Affidavit of Merit and, in others, the Offer of Proof.
In Connecticut, the plaintiff's attorney must file a certification with the lawsuit that there are grounds for a good faith belief that there has been negligence in the care or treatment of the plaintiff. The plaintiff's attorney must attach to the certification a copy of a letter of opinion from a medical expert in a similar field or specialty, who declares that there appears to be evidence of medical negligence -- including a detailed basis for the formation of such opinion. The plaintiff is entitled to keep the identity of the medical expert anonymous at this stage of the lawsuit, and so the plaintiff's lawyer can white out the name and signature of the medical expert in the opinion letter.