Filing a lawsuit for your child’s cerebral palsy can sound quite intimidating. Is it even a case worth looking at? How much time will have to be dedicated to it? How long will it be until the lawsuit is settled?
Because of all the uncertainties, many parents shy away from filing a lawsuit altogether! But once parents realize that there are answers to these questions, it will be much easier to just make the call.
Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions:
- How do I know if I have a case?
- Do I need a lawyer to file a case?
- How much time will the lawsuit take out of my day?
- Is there a time-limit to the age of a child in order to make a claim?
- How do I find the right lawyer?
- How much money will it cost to file a lawsuit?
- How long will it take until the lawsuit is over?
- What’s the difference between settling and going to trial?
- What happens if the lawyer I choose rejects my case?
- What happens if I lose my case?
1. How do I know if I have a case?
The only way to have a successful lawsuit is if the child’s CP was caused by medical malpractice. This means that at some point of the pregnancy or birth - a doctor, nurse, or medical professional didn’t provide the appropriate care, which resulted in your child’s unfortunate disability.
2. Do I need a lawyer to file a case?
Although it may be theoretically possible to file one’s own case, it is exceedingly difficult. Each state has its own laws and regulations of who can file, what constitutes legitimate evidence and what is considered reasonable damage.
Generally, CP cases require expert witnesses to testify that there was indeed a medical mistake during the birthing process. Your lawyer will know who to call and what questions to ask to ensure that justice is served.
3. How much time will the lawsuit take out of my day?
What’s nice about hiring a lawyer is that he or she will do the vast majority of the heavy lifting. In the beginning, the lawyer will want to work closely with you in order to gather as many relevant facts as possible. But afterwards, the research and preparation will be in the hands of your attorney.
4. Is there a time-limit to the age of a child in order to make a claim?
Great question! This is called the statute of limitations, and every state has different rules. Some states only allow claims up until two years after the injury occurred, while others allow up to 18! Regardless, there are often exceptions to any rule, and it can’t hurt to see if your case is one of them.
5. How do I find the right lawyer?
Because birth injury cases are exceedingly complicated, you should try to stay away from hiring your cousin who’s a family lawyer for your case. Experience is key to successfully filing and settling a winning claim.
Here are 4 questions you should ask when searching for a lawyer:
- Do they have expertise in birth injury lawsuits
- How successful are they with their cases?
- Will I be able to work with them comfortably?
- Will I need to pay lawyers’ fees upfront or will the lawyers only get paid if and when the lawsuit is won?
6. How much money will it cost to file a lawsuit?
It’s important to find a lawyer who will only be paid once the lawsuit is successful. Hiring medical experts and doctors to evaluate the case can be very expensive. These lawyers will put out all the money up front, and will only be reimbursed if and when compensation is recovered. A pretty good deal.
7. How long will it take until the lawsuit is over?
It’s hard to say because each case is different, and the length of cases can vary significantly. However, generally cases can take several years from beginning to end.
There are generally 6 stages to every lawsuit:
- Initial sign up and meeting with lawyer
- Fact-finding and discovery of medical records
- Depositions, when each side will be examined under oath
- Expert medical examinations, in which medical experts evaluate and question each side.
- Mediation, in which the two sides meet and attempt to resolve the case before trial. This is when settlements happen.
- And, if no settlement is reached, trial, in which the case is presented in front of a judge to reach a final resolution.
8. What’s the difference between settling and going to trial?
A settlement is when the two parties resolve the case on their own. This is usually done through a mediation process. Generally, cases don’t end up going to trial, which makes things much easier and less stressful for everybody. But the best lawyers are prepared for everything.
9. What happens if the lawyer I choose rejects my case?
The Attorney's job is to assess the case to the best of his or her ability. If he or she decides that the case isn’t worth pursuing that then they may be correct. However, if you feel that you were indeed maltreated during pregnancy or childbirth, you should find another lawyer to assess your case. There have been countless cases which have been tried and won, even though they were previously rejected by another lawyer.
10. What happens if I lose my case?
Firstly, you will not be charged for any of the lawyer and doctor fees that were laid out by your attorney.
In terms of where to go from there - Losing a case usually means that there was not enough evidence to show that your child was mistreated at the hospital. However, if there are still aspects not previously considered, an appeal may be made to restart the process to seek a more positive result.