What are the medical malpractice laws in New York?
Written By: Rheingold, Valet, Rheingold, Ruffo & Giuffra LLP
New Yorkers should have an understanding of the state’s medical malpractice laws. Medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals are people that New Yorkers logically should be able to trust. The quality of medical care residents deserve is high and yet the potential for an error to happen can take away some of the trust that people can have in that quality and their providers.
According to SputnikNews.com, New York's public hospitals and clinics have experienced a surge in the number of medical malpractice claims filed. These claims involve 11 Health and Hospitals Corporation facilities around greater New York City. In 2014, 495 claims of medical errors were filed against these facilities. This year, that number rose to 521, reiterating the reality that medical mistakes can and do happen.
Does New York limit damage awards?
As noted by the National Conference of State Legislatures, most states in the country cap the amount of financial damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice cases. New York, however, is one of just a few states that does not do this. Awards can be payable to victims in installments or in lump sums. For neurological birth injuries, the state has set up a special fund to provide some of the compensation to victims.
Does New York have a statute of limitations for medical errors?
In addition to handling damage award limits differently than most other states, New York also handles the statute of limitations for medical mistakes differently than most other states.
The New York Daily News explains that the bulk of U.S. states have in place what is referred to as a discovery rule. Many times, an injury that results from a medical mistake is not identified for quite some time after the actual injury has taken place. A discovery rule essentially acknowledges this and starts the statute of limitations for claims from the date that the injury becomes known or discovered.
New York does not have a discovery rule. Therefore, the statute of limitations starts when the action takes place even if it is not known at the time. If an injury is discovered after the statute of limitations has run out, no recourse may be available to victims. The New York State Senate reports that a 2013 effort to enact a discovery rule in the state proved unsuccessful.
It is important to note that there is an exception to this general rule in New York. If a foreign object was left inside your body after surgery - such as a sponge - the statute of limitations does not begin to run until after the object has been discovered. In such cases, the injured patient has one year to file suit from either the time when the object was discovered or from the time when the object should "reasonably" have been discovered, whichever comes first.
What should victims do?
Suffering an injury at the hands of those expected to help and heal can be tragic. Especially with the lack of a discovery rule, victims may have limited time in which to seek compensation for such errors. This makes taking prompt action highly important. When a medical mistake is suspected, people should seek advice from an attorney.