As most lawyers practising in med neg in Perth will know, a specific provision was inserted in the 2005 Limitation Act, setting new time limits for child-birth injury claims in Western Australia.

Apart form setting a new scheme for children born after 2005, the then labour government did medical insurers a very great favour, by effectively retrospectively shortening, in some cases, enormously, the time for claims for many children born before Nov 05.

Apart from claims against public hospitals, for whom special time limits were set before the 2005 legislation, generally children (and their parents/guardians) prior to the Nov 2005 changes to the Law, had a period of 24 years (period to age 18 + 6 years from then) within which to make claim. This was the timeframe for a claim against a private obstetrician, midwife or hospital.

By section 7(2) of the Limitation Act 2005, for children born before November 2005, this period was shortened to a maximum of 6 years from Nov 2005 (so to Nov 2011). Theoretically, a child born in October 2005 therefore had only 6 years + 1 month to bring claim within time. How many 6 year olds do you know who can initiate and manage complex medical negligence litigation!

There is some scope for extensions of time (no doubt a fertile area of litigation in the near future) + potential for arguments whether this shortening of time applies to cases alleging negligence in antenatal care prior to delivery (see the odd definition of ’cause of action (childbirth)’) and when a cause of action is now taken to accrue (and so time start), but as a general rule, if you have an interest in a possible medical claim relating to a child born before Nov 05, you now have only 11 months to investigate + initiate claim…better get cracking!