Medical malpractice can cause life altering or even life ending injuries. Usually healthcare provider errors are noticed relatively quickly. Sometimes, however, the true cause or true extent of a patient’s suffering goes unknown for weeks, months, or even years. In some of these more delayed cases it can be difficult for malpractice victims to obtain the financial compensation they deserve because of statutes of limitations. Statutes of limitations are laws that set somewhat arbitrary time limits on how long someone has to file a lawsuit. However, lawmakers in New York have taken steps to help expand the rights of medical malpractice victims so that fewer truly injured people will be denied their day in court.
New York Assembly Passes Bill Allowing Later Medical Malpractice Claims
CBS Albany reports that the New York State Assembly has passed a bill that will allow later claims of medical malpractice. Under the state’s existing law victims of malpractice only have two and a half years to file suit, and that two and a half years starts running as soon as the healthcare provider has committed the act, omission, or improper treatment that caused the patient’s injuries. If the bill passed by the assembly becomes law, the clock will not start running in medical malpractice cases until the injured patient discovers or should have discovered that his or her injuries were caused by malpractice. However, any claims must be filed within ten years of when the malpractice occurred.
The bill becoming law is not, however, a foregone conclusion. There is a companion bill pending in the state senate right now. While that bill has 34 co-sponsors, it has so far been unable to advance from the senate’s Codes Committee. If the bill cannot make it out of the senate injured patients will continue to lose their ability to be compensated for their injuries just because they do not automatically know that their injuries were caused by malpractice.
It Can Take Years or Decades to Discover Medical Malpractice
A report from the New York Law Journal demonstrates how real this concern is and how possible it is for patients to go for years without knowing they have been hurt by healthcare providers. The story details the case of a young patient who had surgery in 1986. Suring that surgery medical professionals left a four-inch-long piece of catheter inside of the patient’s heart. The catheter was not discovered for more than 20 years. Now, fortunately New York has a special statute of limitations for cases where foreign objects are left inside of patients, so this patient can sue. Without that special law, if he were limited by the general medical malpractice statute of limitations that is currently on the books, he would be out of luck, even though it appears that the catheter may have led to serious medical problems over the decades including an embolic stroke and two ischemic attacks.
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