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Strict Medical Error Statute of Limitations Remains in New York

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

New Yorkers who suffer injuries from medical errors may have no caps placed on damage awards but they are severely restrained by the statute of limitations.

Sadly, too many people in New York know someone who may have been injured due to the carelessness or poor decisions of a health care provider or system. Innocent people who are in these situations generally look to the law for some type of help and compensation after the fact. But, in New York, this help and compensation is only available for a set time-a very strict and short set time in comparison to most other states.

A proposed law that went before state lawmakers recently would have changed that to some degree. However, the bill failed to receive approval leaving New Yorkers little choice when they do not immediately know that a mistake has been made.

Errors are not always obvious

If a surgeon is supposed to remove a left foot and instead removes a right foot, the mistake is immediately obvious. A victim in this case would have the ability to pursue compensation. If, however, a doctor fails to detect a tumor on a scan and sends a patient home what happens? In some cases, the patient may not know about the tumor for some time. If too much time lapses until the tumor is identified, that patient will not be able to pursue compensation.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New York law stipulates that medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed no more than 30 months after the date on which an injury occurs. That gives people just two-and-a-half years in which mistakes must be discovered or else they are left with no means of seeking compensation for their injuries.

One Albany resident provides a classic example of how the current law does not serve patients. In early 2012, she had a fibroid removed and was sent home as though everything else was fine. In 2014, the New York Daily News reports that the woman experienced pain which eventually sent her back to doctors. Just a short time after the 30-month window starting when she had her surgery, she learned that she had uterine cancer. By this time, the cancer had spread to her spine and liver. She has no ability to file a medical malpractice suit.

New bill fails to pass legislature

A bill that recently failed to be approved in the state legislature would have enacted what is referred to as a discovery rule. This would give people a certain amount of time to file malpractice suits after they discover an injury from a medical error.

CBS New York explains that the medical community strongly opposed the bill out of concerns that the cost of malpractice insurance would skyrocket. The lack of a cap on damages was also cited as a reason for the opposition.

With continued challenges facing patients and families in New York, anyone who suspects they have suffered from a medical error should talk to an attorney. Taking prompt action is essential in these cases and getting the right help can be of great assistance in meeting these deadlines.

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