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Having a child diagnosed with cerebral palsy can be devastating. You know your child will face lifelong challenges, and legal action may be far from your mind. But lawsuits are important ways for you and your child to get justice, to recover damages, and to ensure your child has access to opportunities.
The process of filing cerebral palsy lawsuits in Massachusetts can be confusing and quite complicated. There are several steps to follow and opportunities to make mistakes. A good lawyer with experience helping the disabled and victims of medical malpractice is your best advocate in filing a lawsuit on behalf of your child.
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Types of Lawsuits You May File in Massachusetts for Cerebral Palsy
For a child with cerebral palsy, there are several lifelong challenges, including disabilities, health conditions, and even discrimination. These challenges can be made a little easier if you take legal action. There are two main types of cases you may need to start on your child’s behalf.
Medical malpractice can be filed when a patient is harmed by medical negligence. In the case of cerebral palsy, a doctor or other medical professional must have failed to provide an adequate standard of care as determined by qualified experts. If this failure leads to significant harm, such as a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, you can get justice and recover damages through a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Discrimination and Disability Rights
As your baby with cerebral palsy gets older, discrimination can become an issue. Discrimination or violation of rights by disability may occur in school by denial of services, in housing if your family is turned away for rentals, or in public access, if your child is not accommodated in public spaces. Most such incidents can be resolved through the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination. 
Finding a Lawyer for Filing a Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit
There are several reasons to take some time to find the right cerebral palsy lawyer in Massachusetts to guide you through the filing process:
- Medical malpractice laws are confusing, and the process is complicated. A lawyer will help you understand them.
- With the right lawyer, every decision will be easier to make.
- A lawyer with experience in these kinds of cases has the in-depth knowledge needed to take each necessary filing step without jeopardizing your lawsuit.
- Working with a lawyer gives you a better chance of a successful outcome.
- With a lawyer, you are likely to recover more in damages.
- Lawyers have access to the medical experts you’ll need for testimony.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Massachusetts
Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit for cerebral palsy can be particularly daunting. You’re facing going up against entire legal teams representing doctors’ insurance companies. Understanding the process and the Massachusetts laws that govern it can make this a little easier.
Statute of Limitations in Massachusetts
You won’t be able to file at all if you miss the statute of limitations. Massachusetts requires that you begin the filing process for medical malpractice within three years of when the incident occurred or when you discovered it. In the latter case, you cannot file more than seven years from the actual episode. 
An important part of the process is to determine with your lawyer how much you will seek in damages. Provide your lawyer with all relevant information and documents to help make this determination: medical records, medical bills, receipts. Know that Massachusetts caps non-economic but not economic damages.
Filing a Complaint
Once your lawyer has discussed the process with you, the next step is to present the complaint. This is the document that details the medical malpractice incident and notifies the defendants of your lawsuit against them.
Medical Malpractice Tribunal
The next step you’ll take in the filing process is to go before the state’s medical malpractice tribunal. This is a panel made up of a lawyer, Superior Court justice, and medical professional.
The defendants will respond to your complaint, after which your lawyer submits evidence to the tribunal.  They determine if you have a valid case, in which case you can begin your lawsuit. If they find against you, filing is still possible, but to do so, you must submit a bond of $6,000.
Most malpractice cases proceed to negotiations for a fair settlement, but Massachusetts provides a unique opportunity for settling. Both sides can agree to a settlement discussion in an attempt to resolve the case.
Trial by Jury
If all attempts up to this point fail to resolve the issue or provide you with what you believe is a fair settlement, you can take your lawsuit to trial. With the evidence presented and expert testimony, the jury will decide the case and award any damages.
Filing a Discrimination Complaint or Lawsuit
Whether or not your situation falls under state or federal law is something your lawyer can help you determine. Most cases of discrimination will fall under the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination (MCAD), and this is where you’ll file a complaint:
- File a claim and wait for a response. The first step in the process is to file a claim through the MCAD. You will then hear from the respondent who has the chance to submit a position statement.
- MCAD investigation. If the MCAD decides your complaint has merit, it will investigate. The investigator assigned to your case will collect evidence and information, talk to witnesses, and in some cases, interview the respondent.
- MCAD determination. After investigating, the MCAD decides of either probable cause, meaning there is evidence to support your allegation, or lack of probable cause, saying there is not.
- Public hearing. If there is probable cause, your case goes to a public hearing. Witnesses testify, and evidence is presented. The MCAD commissioner makes the final decision.
- If you are not satisfied with the determination of a lack of probable cause, you can appeal. A preliminary hearing gives you a chance to make your case and change the Commission’s mind.
- File a lawsuit. Depending on the situation, Massachusetts law may allow you also to file a civil lawsuit. Your lawyer can help you determine if you have this right and get started in the process.
When you’re ready to begin the process of filing a lawsuit over cerebral palsy in Massachusetts, rely on the right lawyer to guide your steps. The process is long, complicated, and confusing, and it is easy to make mistakes without the right advocate.
With the right cerebral palsy lawyer, you can give your child a better future with a successful lawsuit.
- File a complaint of discrimination. (n.d.). Mass.gov. Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination
Retrieved from: https://www.mass.gov/file-a-complaint-of-discrimination
- Medical liability/Malpractice statutes of limitation. (2014, March 20). Legislative News, Studies and Analysis | National Conference of State Legislatures.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/medical-liability-malpractice-statutes-of-limitation.aspx
- A medical malpractice tribunal experience. (2007, September 1). Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.
Retrieved from: http://jaapl.org/content/35/3/286