Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations: What You Need to Know


In almost every single type of case, whether criminal or civil, there is a fixed period of time that a party must initiate an action within.  This time period is known as the statute of limitations.  Essentially, this is a time limit on your potential action.  The statute of limitations period if very important because if a party attempts to bring a claim when the statute of limitations has expired, that claim will be barred. 

Both federal and state governments create the various statute of limitation periods.  The New York State Legislature has codified many of the statute of limitation periods for civil litigation in the Civil Practice Law and Rules.  A lot of the time frames created by the legislature and contained in the Civil Practice Law and Rules come and go rather quickly.  This is why it is essential for an injured party to retain an experienced Hudson personal injury attorney to protect your rights.

Medical malpractice has a statute of limitations period.  It is provided for in Civil Practice Law and Rules Section 214-a.  This section provides for a two and a half (2 ½) year time limit on a medical malpractice claim.  Specifically, this section states “[a]n action for medical, dental or podiatric malpractice must be commenced within two years and six months of the act, omission or failure complaint of . . . .” 

This is the general rule and requires the patient to bring the medical malpractice action right after the treatment rendered to him or her.  The statute of limitations begins to run whether or not the patient is aware of the wrongdoing.  Further, this statute of limitation applies to all medical providers, not just physicians, dentists, podiatrists, and surgeons, but also to nurses, hospital staff, physician assistants, hygienists, and other health care providers.

There are two exceptions to this rule.  The first exception is called the “continuous treatment doctrine.”  Under CPLR Section 214-a, an action for medical malpractice may also be brought within two and a half years of “last treatment where there is continuous treatment for the same illness, injury or condition which gave rise to the said act, omission or failure[.]” 

Thus, where a physician makes a mistake in treatment, the law provides him or her an opportunity to correct it without abridging the rights of an injured patient.  For instance, if a surgeon makes a mistake during a procedure in January and performs a second procedure to try and fix the mistake in March, the statute of limitations for the surgical error begins to run in March—not January.  It is important to note that the “continuous treatment” cannot be examinations undertaken at the request of the patient for the “sole purpose” of ascertaining the state of the patient’s condition.

The second exception is called the “foreign object” exception.  Under CPLR Section 214-a, an action for medical malpractice “based upon the discovery of a foreign object in the body of a patient, the action may be commenced within one year of the date of such discovery or of the date of discovery of facts which would reasonably lead to such discovery, whichever is earlier.”

Therefore, the legislature has provided that a physician or surgeon who leaves a piece of medical equipment inside of a patient can be liable for this error after the two and a half year statute of limitations period has run.  This is as long as the patient did not know or should have known that the medical equipment was left inside of him or her.  An example of this is where a surgeon leaves a pad used to clot bleeding inside of the patient after the surgery.  However, it is important to note that a fixation device, such as a stitch, or a prosthetic aid or device, is not considered a foreign object and does not invoke this rule.

The medical malpractice statute of limitations is very important and requires an experienced Hudson medical malpractice attorney to determine what, if any, exceptions may apply.  The attorneys at Greenberg and Greenberg handle cases throughout New York State, including Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, and Albany County.  Our legal team has earned a reputation for dedicated service to our clients injured in New York personal injury accidents.  Please contact us today to receive a free case evaluation by dialing locally to 518-828-3336 or call toll free at 877-469-9300.