How can you avoid the statute of limitations in your medical malpractice case in Kingston, New York?

In New York, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is two years and six months from the date of the negligent act or omission.  If you do not bring a lawsuit within the limitation period for bringing a medical malpractice action, you will lose your right to sue.

HOWEVER, there are exceptions to the general rule and in New York, the primary exception is the "continuous treatment" doctrine. Under the continuous treatment doctrine, the limitations period for bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit is extended while the patient continues treatment that is related to the negligent act or omission.  The statute of limitations begins to run only after the patient terminates treatment with the physician.

Let's say, for example, that a patient is treating with her psychiatrist for bipolar disorder (a psychiatric condition with extreme mood swings).  The psychiatrist fails to properly monitor the patient's blood levels while treating the patient with a potent mood stabilizer medicine and as a result, the patient suffers permanent damage to her liver.  Instead of firing the doctor, the patient continues to treat with the doctor for her psychiatric illness for the next 12 months.  During this "continuous treatment" for bipolar disorder, the statute of limitations period for bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit is extended until the treatment ends. 

For the continous treatment doctrine to apply, there must be a course of treatment with respect to the condition that gives rise to the lawsuit.  The mere continuing relation between the physician and patient is not enough.  Treatment is not merely a series of well-patient physical examinations or other normal diagnostic services.  The continuous treatment doctrine only applies when there is continuing treatment "for the same illness, injury or condition which gave rise to the said act", according to Borgia v. City of New York (the 1962 Court of Appeals' case that created the continuous treatment principle).

The continuous treatment doctrine is designed to protect the patient from having to "interrupt corrective medical treatment by a physician and undermine the continuing trust in the physician-patient relationship in order to ensure the timeliness of a medical malpractice action."  The patient can continue to treat with the responsible physician without risking the chance that the statute of limitations will expire on the potential medical malpractice lawsuit.  The patient can wait until the end of treatment and then bring the lawsuit against the responsible physician.

"Continuous treatment" ends with the last appointment or the completion of the last prescription.  The treatment ends when no further treatment is anticipated or when the patient fails to present for further treatment.

If you have questions or want more information about the "continuous treatment" doctrine, I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can send me an e-mail at jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com .  You are always welcome to request a FREE copy of my book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.