The Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Cases

How long do I have to file a medical malpractice case in the state of New York?

It is estimated that somewhere between 250,000 and 440,000 people die each year due to medical malpractice, according to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional causes the injury or death of a patient through negligent treatment or failure to treat. Medical malpractice is a difficult concept for most of us to comprehend. After all, we turn to medical professionals in our time of need, expecting proper medical treatment. When we instead suffer harm, it is possible that we have become a victim of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice victims have a limited time within which to file a lawsuit seeking to defend their legal rights.  

What is the Statute of Limitations?

The statute of limitations in a legal case is the maximum time that the injured party has to initiate legal proceedings. Statute of limitations are set by each state and will vary depending on the type of lawsuit, making it critical for accident or malpractice victims to research the laws in their state so that they do not lose the right to pursue compensation. Most states offer a statute of limitations of around two years, but some are far longer and some are also shorter. California, for instance, has a three-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases, while Texas allows two years.  

New York’s Statute of Limitations 

In the state of New York, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is two and a half years or 30 months, but there are exceptions to this time frame. First, in medical malpractice cases, the discovery rule becomes critical. At times, it is impossible for a patient to know that they have become a medical malpractice victim. For example, a doctor may fail to diagnose cancer in a patient, and that patient may not discover they have cancer until years later. In such a scenario, the statute of limitations clock would not start until the discovery of the medical malpractice injury. In other situations, the clock would start to run on the date of the last visit with your doctor (or hospital) if the court is satisfied that the last visit was part of a continuous course of treatment following the malpractice. Determining whether there is a course of continuous treatment is not always obvious. It is best to consult with a medical malpractice attorney to advise if you still have time to sue. 

Other exceptions to the statute of limitations include age and insanity.  If a patient is a minor, the timeframe to file will not start until they turn 18.  Similarly, if a patient is deemed legally insane, the clock will stop until the psychiatric disability ends. Your medical malpractice lawyer will assist you in determining when you need to file to preserve your legal rights.

About the Author
Of all the different areas in medical malpractice, it is podiatry malpractice that has had a particular interest to me. With 42 years practicing law and representing hundreds of victims of malpractice, I have created a law practice in which my clients are comfortable knowing that their case is being handled with my personal attention, in the most professional manner, and without unreasonable delays.