Getting Around The Strict Deadlines: Exceptions To The Statute Of Limitations For Medical Malpractice


When trying to recover damages in any type of case it is important to be aware of the many deadlines you will have.  It is especially important to know how long you have under New York’s statute of limitations.  The statute of limitations puts a time limit on how long a person has to commence a lawsuit.  Once the time period for the lawsuit has expired the injured person will be prohibited from filing a lawsuit, regardless of the injuries suffered.

This is particularly important in New York medical malpractice cases, where the statute of limitations is only 2 1/2 years.  The statute of limitations begins to run from the day that the alleged negligent action or omission that caused the injury occurred; not when the victim discovered the malpractice.  Therefore, if the victim did not discover the medical malpractice until after the 2 1/2 statute of limitations has run, they will not be able to commence a lawsuit.

Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations

There are some exceptions to New York’s statute of limitations.  For example, patients who have been injured because a foreign object has been left inside their body have one year from the date the object was or should have been discovered to file a New York medical malpractice claim.  Additionally, in cases where a minor has been injured due to medical malpractice, they have three years from their eighteenth birthday to file a claim.  However, the medical negligence must have happened within the previous 10 years.

Another major exception is continuous treatment.

Continuous Treatment

Under the “continuous treatment” doctrine, the limited time period to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit is extended while the patient continues to receive treatment related to the negligent actor or omission.  Once the patient terminates treatment with the physician, the statute of limitations begins to run.

In order for this doctrine to apply, there needs to be a course of treatment related to the condition that relates to the lawsuit.  The treatment must be for the same illness, injury, or condition.  Merely continuing the relationship between the physician and the patient is not enough.

“Continuous treatment” ends once there has been a last appointment or the last prescription has been completed.  Additionally, treatment ends when there is no further treatment anticipated or the patient does not present themselves for further treatment.

The purpose of this doctrine is to protect the patient from having to interrupt any corrective treatment they may be receiving from the physician and undermine the continuing trust of the physician-patient relationship just so the timeliness of a medical malpractice action can be ensured.  Therefore a patient can wait until treatment has ended in order to bring the lawsuit against the physician responsible.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical malpractice, be sure to contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to avoid having your action time barred because the statute of limitations has expired.

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