For medical malpractice cases in New York, there is a two and a half year statute of limitations, under CPLR 214-a, which begins to accrue at the time the act of medical malpractice occurred, not when the victim discovers the malpractice. The claim begins to accrue whether the victim knows whether any wrongdoing occurred or not. Due to this rule, victims frequently do not discover an injury until the state of limitations has run and by then it is too late to sue.
To help alleviate the burden of the statute of limitations on victims, the statute of limitations can be tolled as long as the patient is receiving continuous treatment from the doctor for the same or related illness or injury that was a result of the medical malpractice. This does not include merely continuing the general doctor-patient relationship. Once the treatment ends for the related illness or injury then the statute of limitations begins to run.
In order for there to be continuous treatment there needs to be regular sessions for the same condition between the doctor and the patient. Also, there must be actual treatment, not just a series of examinations or diagnostic services. There are some acts that will terminate continuous treatment. One such act is to terminate treatment by the defendant doctor and then begin treatment with a different doctor. An exception to this is if the patent did not intend to sever the continuing relationship with the defendant doctor. Once a patient leaves their last appointment where they received treatment for the related illness or injury and did not make a subsequent appointment, the toll for continuous treatment ends and the statute of limitations begins to run.
The continuous treatment doctrine was designed with the intent to protect patients from having to interrupt any corrective medical treatment or undermine the doctor-patient relationship to ensure that a medical malpractice action was timely brought. This doctrine allows patients to continue treatment without fear that the statute of limitations will expire. Under this doctrine the patient is able to wait until treatment has stopped before bringing a lawsuit against the doctor responsible for the medical malpractice.
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