If you're thinking about filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in the state of New York, it helps to understand the laws and procedural rules that could come into play, including the time limits for filing these kinds of cases in New York's civil court system, and the "certificate of merit" that must accompany most medical malpractice lawsuits.
All states have very specific deadlines for filing medical malpractice lawsuits, set by laws called statutes of limitations. In New York, a lawsuit for medical malpractice usually must be filed within two years and six months of the underlying act of medical negligence. However, if the health care provider's mistake occurred as part of an "ongoing course of treatment," this 30-month statutory "clock" does not start running until that course of treatment is completed.
The discovery rule effectively extends the standard lawsuit-filing deadline in situations where the patient could not reasonably have learned that he or she had a viable medical malpractice case. In New York, the discovery rule is more limited than it is in other states. It applies in only two situations:
In New York, the statute of limitations for minor children in medical malpractice cases does not begin running until the child’s eighteenth birthday, with one exception. Regardless of the child’s age when the malpractice occurred, the statute of limitations cannot be extended more than ten years after the alleged malpractice occurred or after a foreign object in the patient’s body was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.
If you do not file your medical malpractice lawsuit before the statute of limitations deadline has passed, you lose your right to sue the health care provider, unless you fall within one of the exceptions outlined under New York law. For example, the statute of limitations may be extended if the defendant health care provider left the state after committing the malpractice, or if the patient was mentally ill or mentally disabled at the time of the medical error.
The New York statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases, and the exception for children, can be found at New York Civil Practice Law & Rules sections 214-A and 208.
Some states have legislative caps or limits on the amount of damages that can be awarded to a successful medical malpractice claimant. In New York, there are no such caps on the books.
In New York, if you go to trial and are found to be partially liable for your injuries, that finding will reduce your damages award. That's because New York follows a “pure comparative negligence” rule. So, if you are found to bear some amount of fault for your injury, illness, or medical condition (on top of the health care provider's fault) your award of damages is diminished in proportion to your share of blame. If, for example, you were awarded $100,000 in damages, but were found 20% at fault, your damages would be reduced to $80,000.
In New York, the plaintiff’s lawyer in a medical malpractice lawsuit must file a written certificate of merit along with the lawsuit (or within 90 days of filing the lawsuit, if compliance with the statute of limitations is an issue). The certificate must state one of two things:
Note that a plaintiff who is filing a medical malpractice lawsuit without a lawyer need not comply with this "certificate of merit" requirement. All of the details of this filing requirement can be found at New York Civil Practice Law & Rules section 3012-A.
To best understand how New York laws might affect your potential medical malpractice case, discuss your situation with an attorney. Learn more about meeting and working with a medical malpractice lawyer.