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The process of filing a Missouri cerebral palsy lawsuit is based on the state and federal laws related to medical malpractice and civil rights, depending on the type of case you are starting. The process can be confusing and lengthy, so it helps to understand the basics before getting started.
It’s also critical to have an experienced cerebral palsy lawyer by your side, who can guide you through the intricate legal process.
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The Types of Lawsuits You Can File in Missouri for Cerebral Palsy
When hearing your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a lawsuit is probably the farthest thing from your mind. However, there are several reasons you may need to take legal action.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Medical malpractice happens when a medical professional fails to provide adequate services based on an established standard of care, which leads to a patient’s injuries. Medical carelessness or failure to carry out duties appropriately during pregnancy, delivery, and even after delivery can lead to cerebral palsy.
Discrimination Claims and Lawsuits
Children with cerebral palsy are at risk of facing discrimination. Taking legal action, either through filing a complaint with Missouri or federal government or filing a lawsuit, is vital if your child’s rights have been violated. Legal action, in some instances, can result in recovered damages.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for Cerebral Palsy in Missouri
Before beginning the lawsuit process, make sure that you understand the statute of limitations. Missouri law says that you must begin a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years of the negligent incident. There is an exception for minors who file. They have until their twelfth birthday to start the claim.
Filing the Lawsuit with Affidavit of Merit
A lawsuit begins when your lawyer files a complaint, which is a legal document detailing your allegations and notifying the defendants of the legal actions you’re taking. Missouri also requires that you submit an affidavit of merit at this time.
An affidavit of merit is a signed statement that confirms your case has value and that there was likely a negligent act.  A medical expert must approve the affidavit. The expert must have qualifications and expertise in the same area of medicine as the defendants. For instance, if a pediatrician made careless mistakes, an unrelated pediatrician must approve the affidavit.
One of the most important reasons to go through the process of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is to recover damages to pay for your child’s care and treatment. Your lawyer will need all relevant medical bills and records, as well as receipts for things related to your child’s condition.
Keep in mind that Missouri limits how much you can recover for non-economic damages.
Your lawyer, as well as the defendant’s law team, will spend time investigating the incident and your allegations. Your lawyer will likely conduct interviews and depositions with witnesses and medical experts.
Negotiating a Settlement
The next step in the lawsuit process is for both sides to present their evidence to each other in an attempt to settle. If your lawyer can convince the defendant’s lawyers to award you a fair settlement, the case will not go to trial.
Going to Court
If negotiations fail or never get off the ground, you can choose to continue your lawsuit in court. Both sides will have time to present evidence and testimony to the jury. The jury then decides if negligence occurred and if you are owed any damages from the defendants. Either side can appeal the decision.
Filing a Discrimination Complaint or Lawsuit in Missouri
The Missouri Human Rights Act was created to protect disabled citizens against discrimination. The act applies to discrimination in public accommodations, as well as finding housing and employment. 
While work is not yet an issue for a younger disabled child, your family could be denied housing or a public space may not provide accessible services. At school, your child could be denied appropriate special education services, which is against federal law. 
To file a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, you’ll begin with intake in which the Commission determines if they are the right agency to handle your case. This will be followed by:
- Filing the complaint. Your lawyer can help you provide the necessary information to make a formal complaint.
- An investigation. A Commission investigator acts as a neutral party, gathering evidence about the incident.
- The Determination. The investigator then decides, either that there was no violation of your child’s rights or that there is probable cause to believe that it did happen. If possible, the Commission will try to settle the matter between you and the respondent.
- A public hearing. If mediation fails and the issue can’t be settled, a Hearing Examiner will conduct an interview and issue a recommendation.
- The final decision. After the hearing, the Commission will make a final decision. If the decision is that discrimination occurred, the Commission orders some remedy, which may include paying damages.
When you file the initial complaint, you also have the right to ask for a Notice of Right to Sue. This gives you 90 days to begin a civil lawsuit against the individual or organization you are accusing of discrimination. Your lawyer can help you move forward with that process.
Finding a Lawyer for the Filing Process
Filing a cerebral palsy lawsuit in Missouri or any other state is a long process that has many opportunities for mistakes. Don’t let errors jeopardize your child’s chance for justice and compensation. Hire a lawyer who specializes in disability rights, birth injuries, or medical malpractice to provide you with the expertise you need to get through this process with a good outcome for your child.
You can find a lawyer with the right area of specialty by contacting the state bar association, by talking with other parents of disabled children, or by working with a local organization that advocates for disabled residents.
Get references, ask questions, and request proof of past legal victories for similar cases before you commit to hiring a lawyer or law firm.
The Missouri cerebral palsy lawsuit filing process can be overwhelming, but you are taking essential steps to give your child a better future. With the right lawyer by your side and a basic understanding of the steps in the process, your lawsuit could result in a win for your family and your child.
- Medical liability/Malpractice merit affidavits and expert witnesses. (2014, June 24). Legislative News, Studies and Analysis | National Conference of State Legislatures.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/medical-liability-malpractice-merit-affidavits-and-expert-witnesses.aspx
- Missouri disability discrimination. (n.d.). Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.
Retrieved from: https://labor.mo.gov/mohumanrights/Discrimination/disability
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). (n.d.). Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. U.S. Department of Education.
Retrieved from: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/