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Will time limits affect my California birth injury case?

The time period immediately following a child's birth is often a whirlwind for California families. A mother needs to recover physically and a family must adjust to having a newborn in their home. A significant period of adjustment often follows even the most ordinary childbirth experience, but for families who have experienced some sort of trauma during the childbirth process, such as a birth injury, the adjustment period may be even more difficult or prolonged.

In the event a birth injury has occurred, a family may opt to pursue a medical malpractice action against a negligent nurse or doctor. It is important for families to be aware that there are time limitations that affect when such a birth injury case may be filed.

In California, a plaintiff must file a medical malpractice action against a healthcare provider either within one year from the date she knew or should have known about an injury, or within three years from the date of the injury itself, whichever date is earliest. The issue of whether a plaintiff should have known about an injury can be complex. Under California law, a plaintiff should have known if "reasonable diligence" would have uncovered the injury.

Additionally, there are circumstances which may delay, or toll, the aforementioned time limits. For example, if fraud or intentional concealment of circumstances regarding negligence existed, a plaintiff may have longer to file suit. Furthermore, if a foreign body, such as a sponge, is left inside a patient, a patient may have longer to file a medical malpractice action, as well.

Statute of limitations requirements are strict, but there is some leeway depending on the circumstances of a case. Therefore, while a family may need to take some time to adjust following the birth of a child, due to statute of limitations requirements, it may be important for a family to consult with an attorney sooner rather than later following a birth injury.

Source: leginfo.ca.gov, "Code of Civil Procedure Section 340.5," accessed Sept. 2, 2016

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