The New York State Assembly has just passed a bill which would amend the statute of limitations in medical malpractice lawsuits to allow for what is known as a "discovery" rule in certain cases. What is this and why is it important?
The statute of limitations is the amount of time that a victim has after a wrong to file a lawsuit. In a general case of negligence (a car accident, for example) the law ordinarily allows the victim three years from the date of accident to file suit. Medical malpractice cases are different. In those cases the time period is shorter - 2 1/2 years to be exact.
Under the law this means that if a doctor made a mistake in diagnosing cancer, for example, and the patient did not know until after the statute of limitations had expired, the patient would be out of luck. This is a harsh reality for victims of missed diagnoses.
The new legislation, however, would change that, and would allow for the statute of limitations to run from the time that the patient knew, or reasonably could have known, about the negligent failure to diagnose the cancer. This may seem like a subtle difference, but it is significant. This means that if a doctor misses a diagnosis, and the patient does not learn of the missed diagnosis until three years later (at which point it may be too late medically), the patient would still be able to bring an action against the doctor based upon the misdiagnosis.
The legislation will now be sent to Governor Cuomo for signature. This is a win for residents of New York State. Holding physicians liable for severe errors helps improve medical care for the rest of us.
If you have questions about a late cancer diagnosis give us a call today.