Connecticut Medical Malpractice Laws

Find out how long you have to file your malpractice case, the role expert witnesses will play, the elements of a successful claim, and much more.

By , J.D. University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law
Updated 6/12/2024

Medical malpractice cases are among the most difficult, time consuming, and expensive of all personal injury actions. They're often subject to a dizzying array of special rules, both procedural and substantive, that needlessly delay and complicate the process. Connecticut law is no exception. To help you get a handle on the basics, we'll review several medical malpractice-specific rules you need to understand.

First, we explain Connecticut's medical malpractice "statute of limitations"—the law that puts a deadline on your time to file a lawsuit in court. Second, we'll look at the state's prefiling "reasonable inquiry" statute. Third, we walk you through the elements of a Connecticut medical malpractice case, explaining the role that medical expert witnesses play. Finally, we briefly cover Connecticut's mediation requirement for medical malpractice lawsuits.

Connecticut's Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations

In the simplest terms, a statute of limitations is a claim killer. Miss the filing deadline and, absent an exception that gives you more time, your claim is dead. File a lawsuit and the defendant (the health care provider you're suing) will ask the court to dismiss it. The court will grant that request. You won't have any better luck trying to negotiate a settlement, because as far as Connecticut law is concerned, you no longer have a claim to settle.

Connecticut's Two Year General Rule

You can find Connecticut's medical malpractice statute of limitations at Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-584 (2024). As a general rule, you have two years to sue "a physician, surgeon, dentist, podiatrist, chiropractor, advanced practice registered nurse, hospital or sanatorium" for malpractice. That means filing your initial complaint and the "reasonable inquiry" certification we discuss below.

The two-year deadline clock starts ticking on the later of:

  • the date you suffered a malpractice-related injury, or
  • the earlier of the date you discovered or, were you being reasonably careful, you should have discovered a malpractice-related injury.

In most cases, of course, you discover your injury on the date it happens. The statute of limitations starts running that day. Sometimes, though, you might not discover your injury until later.

For example, assume your surgeon carelessly leaves a surgical instrument inside you. Absent pain or other symptoms, there's no way for you to know about your injury. You might not discover it for months or even years. The burden is on you to show that you couldn't reasonably have discovered the harm before you did.

The Deadline to Discover Your Injury

As a practical matter, Connecticut gives you just one extra year to discover an injury you don't learn about right away. Why? Because a second deadline, called a "statute of repose," says the latest you can file a medical malpractice case is "three years from the date of the act or omission complained of." If you don't discover the defendant's medical error and file your case within three years after the date the malpractice happened, you lose the right to sue.

Hire a Connecticut Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you plan to rely on Connecticut's discovery rule (or your case involves other statute of limitations issues), be ready for a fight. The defendant will certainly ask the court to dismiss your case. You'll end up arguing to the judge, and your arguments must be supported by the law.

You don't want to fight that battle on your own. Hire an experienced Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer to represent you and make your arguments to the court.

Connecticut's "Reasonable Inquiry" Certification Requirement

Connecticut's "reasonable inquiry" certification requirement is Connecticut's version of the "affidavit of merit" requirement, a common medical malpractice procedural hurdle found in many states. Lawmakers claim that these requirements force plaintiffs (injured patients who sue) to do their homework before filing malpractice cases, thus reducing the number of "frivolous" malpractice suits.

Those are laudable goals, but:

  • there's little convincing data to support the claim that frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits are (or ever were) rampant, and
  • no experienced Connecticut medical malpractice lawyer would think of filing a case without doing an exhaustive prefiling investigation, even without the state's certification requirement.

How the Certification Requirement Works

Together with your initial medical malpractice complaint, you must file a certificate declaring that you or your attorney have made a "reasonable inquiry" and, based on that inquiry, you have a "good faith belief" that:

  • there's been negligence in your medical care, and
  • "grounds exist for an action against each named defendant."

To show your good faith, you must obtain a written, signed report from a qualified medical expert (as defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-184c (2024). The report, a copy of which (with the expert's name and signature redacted) must be attached to the certificate, has to include:

  • the expert's opinion that you were injured by medical negligence, and
  • factual and medical details explaining the basis for that opinion.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-190a(a) (2024).)

Sanctions and Case Dismissal

While the purposes it supposedly serves are doubtful, the certificate requirement can't be taken lightly. Failure to file the expert report, or filing a meritless certificate, can carry real consequences. Specifically, the court can:

  • sanction (penalize) you, your expert, or your lawyer for preparing or participating in the preparation of a false or meritless certificate, and
  • dismiss your lawsuit for failure to obtain and file the expert's report.

You'll Need Medical Experts to Prove Your Case

As mentioned above, you'll need to hire medical expert witnesses to prove your case. (See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-184c (2024).) Here are the elements you're required to show.

  • The standard of care. The medical standard of care—one of the critical elements of a medical malpractice case—describes what your health care provider should have done to deliver appropriate care. In general, the standard of care means your provider should have exercised that degree of care and skill that an ordinarily careful provider in the community, having the same education, training, and experience as your provider, would have exercised under the circumstances. Your medical expert standard of care witness will explain what your provider should have done.
  • Substandard care. Once you've established what your provider should have done, you need to show what they actually did (or failed to do) that was substandard. This element is sometimes called a "breach" of the standard of care. Here too, your standard of care medical expert will testify to how your care was substandard.
  • You were injured. Proving the standard of care and how your care was substandard means you've shown medical negligence, or malpractice. But your work isn't done. Next, you need to prove you were injured. How are you worse off now than you were before the malpractice? Did your condition worsen? Did you develop a new injury or illness? Did your chance of recovery or survival diminish or disappear? Without an injury, you don't have a case.
  • Your injuries were caused by substandard care. Of course, you also have to show it's more likely than not that your injuries were caused by your provider's substandard care. Once again, proof of this element—called "causation"— will fall to an expert witness. In some medical malpractice cases, proving causation isn't difficult. But in other cases, like those involving failure to timely or properly diagnose an injury or illness, causation is likely to be outcome determinative.

Mandatory Mediation for Medical Malpractice Claims

Unless they agree to another form of alternative dispute resolution, the parties in every Connecticut medical malpractice case must participate in at least one mediation session in an effort to settle the case. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-190c(a) (2024).) While the mediation is pending, all other activity in the case is "stayed" (put on hold). (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-190c(b) (2024).)

During the first mediation session, the mediator and the parties must decide whether the case can be resolved via mediation. If not, mediation ends and the lawsuit process picks up where it left off and continues. If the parties agree that mediation might succeed in resolving the case, follow up sessions are scheduled. The parties evenly split all mediation costs. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-190c(c) (2024).)

No Medical Malpractice Damages Cap in Connecticut

Many states limit, or "cap," the medical malpractice damages a winning plaintiff can recover. In particular, states frequently cap "noneconomic" damages, also called "general" damages. These damages are meant to compensate you for injuries and losses that don't cost you directly out of pocket. Emotional distress, disability, disfigurement, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life are common examples.

Connecticut isn't a damage cap state. In other words, if you win your medical malpractice case, the damages you're allowed to recover from the responsible health care provider aren't arbitrarily limited. Connecticut does limit punitive damages, but those aren't intended to compensate you for your injuries, and they're rarely awarded in medical malpractice cases.

Get Help With Your Connecticut Medical Malpractice Case

There are some personal injury claims you might be able to handle on your own, but a medical malpractice case isn't one of them. Almost without exception, medical malpractice cases are factual and legal minefields. They're often made more difficult by special laws created to make them hard to file and even harder to win.

Without expert legal help in your corner, you stand little chance of success. When you're ready to move forward with your claim, here's how you can find a Connecticut medical malpractice attorney who's right for you.

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