Especially compared with other injury-related legal claims, a medical malpractice lawsuit is a complicated undertaking. That goes for malpractice claims in every state, Connecticut included. It's not just because legal issues and medical evidence can get quite complex in these kinds of cases. It's also because a medical malpractice plaintiff (the injured patient -- or the patient's legal representative -- filing the case) needs to comply with a number of strict procedural rules right at the outset.
In this article, we'll look at two key Connecticut medical malpractice laws: the statute of limitations and the "Reasonable Inquiry" certification requirement.
First, in case your legalese is rusty, let's provide a little background information. A "statute of limitations" is a state law that limits the amount of time you have to get a lawsuit filed after you have suffered some kind of harm. If you try to file your malpractice case after the statutory time limit has passed, it's a safe bet that the doctor or health care entity you are trying to sue will point out to the court that you missed the deadline, and the court will grant a motion to dismiss the case (unless some rare exception applies to effectively extend the deadline).
Now, what does the law say in Connecticut? General Statutes of Connecticut section 52-584 states that any lawsuit for injury caused "by malpractice of a physician, surgeon, dentist, podiatrist, chiropractor, hospital or sanatorium" must be brought to the state's civil courts within two years. That means filing the initial complaint and the "reasonable inquiry" certification that we'll discuss in the next section of this article.
The statute of limitations "clock" starts running on the date on which "the injury is first sustained or discovered or in the exercise of reasonable care should have been discovered." So, if you don’t learn about your injury right away, you still have some leeway to get the case started, but you'll also have the burden of showing that you could not have reasonably discovered the harm before you did.
Section 52-584 goes on to say that no medical malpractice lawsuit "may be brought more than three years from the date of the act or omission complained of.” In other words, the statute really only gives you one extra year in which to discover that you were harmed by malpractice. Once three years have passed since the defendant committed the medical error, you’ve lost your right to file the medical malpractice lawsuit in Connecticut.
Connecticut lawmakers have passed a law that places something of a procedural hurdle in the path of injured patients looking to take their case to court.
General Statutes of Connecticut section 52-190a says that, before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a health care provider in the state's civil court system, the injured patient (or the patient's attorney) must file a certificate with the court declaring:
Section 52-190a also says that, as part of the "reasonable inquiry" process, the plaintiff is required to "obtain a written and signed opinion" from a qualified medical expert, in which the expert:
A few more notes on this process:
Unlike many states, Connecticut has not passed a law that limits (or "caps") damages in medical malpractice cases. So there is no statutory limit on the amount of money that a successful plaintiff can receive, after a jury has found the defendant health care provider(s) liable for medical malpractice.
If you're looking for more specifics on Connecticut's medical malpractice laws and how they apply to your potential case, it may be time to discuss your situation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in your area.