There’s statutes of limitations for all personal injury cases, from the most minor car wreck through the most significant, like a birth injury case. There’s statutes of limitations for all of those cases. What statute of limitations is it is a deadline. It’s a time period imposed by the legislature and by statue. They vary from state to state. I’d like to talk to you about what the statue of limitations are in Georgia in birth injury cases.
Birth injury cases have actually 2 components to them, 2 possible claims. Here’s the way I want you to think about it, the parents have a claim for all of the expenses of taking care of the damaged child, a child with a birth injury, brain injury, cerebral palsy from the moment of birth through that child’s 18th birthday. Just like parents of any child are financially responsible for them under the law, the parents of the child with special needs, and medical needs, and therapeutic needs, and their [inaudible 00:01:21] needs, and a child who has been injured during the labor and delivery process, the results of the birth injury. The parent has a claim, absent the child’s claim, for all of those medical expenses from birth to 18. Now, that claim is the parents’, both biological parents. That claim must be brought within 2 years.
Now, it’s not uncommon for families to get to us after that 2 year period of time. Often, it’s taken them that period of time to A, understand what happened to their child, and B, come to term with their nagging suspicion that maybe something went wrong, and maybe the doctors are responsible. It is unfortunate that that claim, the parents’ claim for reimbursement of cost of raising that child and caring for that child, all of the child’s medical needs, from birth to 18, is limited to 2 years. I hope, in my heart, that one day, the legislature will hear from enough parents of injured kids and be pressured into extending that time period. For now, that time period is 2 years. 2 years and 1 day, after the delivery of your child, you no longer have the right to bring a claim for reimbursement of medical expenses. If it hasn’t been brought, it’s gone forever.
There are some exceptions to that rule, although there are few, and essentially only if a fraud occurred. The hospital or the doctors actively engaged in a fraud. It would have to be the hiding of records, or the dummying up of records, the fraudulent changing of record, something like that, something that dramatic, which happens, but not very often, to extend that period of time. Now, there is a second claim, even parents who had missed that first 2 year window have another claim and another window, that’s a 7 year window. If you are within 7 years from the birth of your child, you still have the right to bring the claim for your child’s injuries during delivery. That 7 year period of time covers a different claim than the parents’ claim, it is the child’s claim. The child’s claim for the injury to them as a human being, for their pain and suffering, not for the medical expenses from 0 to 18, but from the medical expenses from 18 through the rest of their life.
Those 3 components can be brought within that 7 year period, the injury to the child, the economic value of what it’s like to be injured, the consequence of that injury. If you could put a dollar value, and juries are asked to put a dollar value on the loss of function, the loss of brain activity, the loss of quality of life, the loss of the ability to meet intellectual and physical milestones, all of that will be valued economically. Number 2, the pain and suffering of the child. What physical suffering the child goes through, and what emotional suffering they go through as a result of their injury. 3, the medical expenses from 18 through the rest of their life. By medical, I don’t just mean doctors and therapist, I mean care. I mean nursing care, because some of these children, as they grow older, are unable to care for themselves. They either have nursing care that comes into their home 12, 24 hours a day in some cases, or respite care or hospice care where they are in a facility who specializes in treating people with brain injury and cerebral palsy. If that it the best and safest environment and the environment the family chooses, then we can make a claim for that.
Those are the statues of limitation in the state of Georgia. They vary from state to state. I urge you to contact an attorney immediately just because those deadlines exist. They cannot be undone. I can’t tell you how many times people have come to me who’ve had profound injuries themselves, or where their child has profound injuries. They have come to me outside the statue of limitations. There is absolutely nothing I can do for them. I urge everyone to, even if you’re unsure about whether you want to go forward with the claim or not, you don’t have to make that decision, just contact a lawyer and find out if you decide to go forward, do you still have the right to. Often, when I sit down with families, once they learn about these time limits, the next thing they tell me is, “Gosh, we would’ve contacted you a lot sooner if we had known that.”