If you're thinking of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Connecticut, there are a number of laws that you'll need to be familiar with before you head to court. Medical malpractice cases are known for being extremely complicated, and you'll almost certainly need an experienced attorney to help you through the process. But, in this article, we'll introduce a few laws that could affect the outcome of your case, including:
Connecticut, like all states, has laws called "statutes of limitations" that set limits on the time a plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. The deadlines differ depending on what type of lawsuit you want to file, but the time limits are always strictly enforced. If you try to file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, your case will almost certainly be dismissed (unless some rare exception exists that will extend the deadline), and you will lose your right to have the court hear your claim. That's why it's so important to understand and comply with the filing deadline that applies to your situation.
In Connecticut, the medical malpractice statute of limitations specifically applies to claims filed against physicians, surgeons, dentists, chiropractors, advanced practice registered nurses, hospitals, and sanatoriums. And the law states that the deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is two years from the date:
Note that if you rely on the so-called "discovery rule" (in a case where, for example, you didn't know right away that your doctor left a sponge or instrument in your body during surgery), you have the burden of proving that you couldn't have discovered the injury sooner than you did.
Connecticut law also places an absolute filing deadline of three years from the date of the "act or omission complained of." Be aware that this time limit applies even if you didn't know—and couldn't have known—about your injuries during that time.
(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-584 (2022).)
As part of broader tort-reform efforts, many states have passed laws requiring plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases to submit some type of proof of the defendant's negligence at the beginning of the case, often in the form of a document called an "affidavit of merit."
Connecticut has a similar requirement. The document that starts the lawsuit (called a "complaint") must include a certificate of "reasonable inquiry." The certificate must state that the plaintiff (or the plaintiff's attorney) has made a "reasonable inquiry" to determine that there is a "good faith belief that there has been negligence in the care or treatment of the" injured patient and that the inquiry "gave rise to a good faith belief that grounds exist for an action against each named defendant."
As part of the inquiry, the plaintiff must obtain a written and signed opinion from a medical expert in a similar field or specialty, in which the expert (1) states that there appears to be evidence of medical negligence and (2) includes a detailed description of the basis for that opinion. A copy of the medical expert's statement must be attached to the certificate of reasonable inquiry and filed with the court alongside the initial complaint.
Failure to obtain and file the certificate and the medical expert's written opinion will be grounds for the court to dismiss the case.
The details of this requirement can be found at Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-190a. And you can learn more about who qualifies as a medical expert witness under Connecticut law at Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-184c.
Also as part of their efforts at tort reform, some states have enacted laws limiting the amount of compensation ("damages") a plaintiff can receive if their medical malpractice claim succeeds. Connecticut, though, has no law that caps medical malpractice damages. That means a judge or jury is free to award any amount of money to compensate for losses the injured patient suffered as a result of the health care provider's negligence.
In some medical malpractice cases, the defendant might argue that you are at least in part liable for causing your own injuries by, for example, failing to follow the doctor's instructions. So what happens if the court agrees and finds you partially responsible? In such cases, Connecticut follows what's called a "modified comparative negligence" rule that still allows you to receive compensation—as long as your share of the fault is not greater than the defendant's. That is, your share of the fault cannot be more than 50 percent.
Let's look at an example. Say that a jury finds that your doctor's negligence during surgery led to complications. But the jury also finds that you failed to follow all of your doctor's orders, resulting in more serious injuries. Because of the doctor's medical errors, you were awarded $200,000 in damages, but, because the jury also finds that you were 20 percent responsible for your injuries, your award will be reduced to $160,000. However, if you were found to be more than 50 percent responsible, you wouldn't be entitled to receive any compensation at all.