The state of New York has an odd legal loophole that has allowed doctors
who make big mistakes in medical practice to do so without the same accountability
as they have in other states. Thanks to the wording of a specific code
section in New York’s state laws, the time period in which a patient
or his or her loved ones can bring forward a legal case for accountability
is extremely truncated. A proposed legislative revision had made its way
through the entire state government only to be killed at the last minute
under a technical rule avoiding a vote in the state Senate. As a result,
New Yorkers must still run the risk of being serious injured or killed
by their doctors with little recourse.
A Real Life Case
Take the example of Lavern Wilkinson. She had a form of lung cancer that
could have been treated. However, doctors failed to catch the mass on
her x-rays three years earlier. By the time it was identified, the cancer
ended up killing Ms. Wilkinson. Her family sued under New York law, but
they were unable to file the case because the statute of limitations,
two and half years from the error made, not the discovery of that error,
had already expired. In comparison, 44 other states in the union have
the statute of limitations start from the time of the mistake’s
Hospital Accountability Limited
Hospitals already have multiple protections that create barriers to their
performance statistics being made fully public. However, at least 44,000
patients annually are killed due to avoidable medical errors in treatment,
and the figure is assumed to be ten times higher. Moreover, this statistic
does not include those who live on with avoidable injuries. Sepsis, infections,
misplaced materials and instruments, misdiagnosis and bad surgeries all
Complaints Pile Up, Hard to Prove
The proposed change to New York’s law to make it more consistent
with that of other states was opposed by the health and hospital industry
on the grounds that it would trigger more lawsuits for medical malpractice.
While that might be the case, it would also likely have had an improved
effect on preventing mistakes in the first place – an end result
that clearly would have reduced related lawsuits, too.
It’s also important to note that medical malpractice as a legal cause
is not easy to prove, even when allowed within time limits. Only one percent
of medical errors in 2013 turned into full blown litigation cases. Of
7,400 complaints filed in New York against doctors annually, the average
number of cases sanctioned is well under 300. Finally, those who do win
a malpractice case in New York don’t see astronomical judgments.
The median recovery is between $400,000 and $630,000.
If you think you or a loved one has been impacted by a doctor’s mistake,
do the following:
- Collect as much information and treatment documents as possible.
- Make a list of all medical contacts, witnesses, and parties involved.
- Call an attorney to find out your state’s rights for patients and
Ohio Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice Claims
How long do you to bring a claim for malpractice in Ohio, if a doctor,
hospital or other caregiver caused you harm? Per current law (as of November
2015), you have one year to file a claim.
That “clock” can start from different dates, however, including:
- The date of the malpractice incident itself (e.g. when a botched surgery occurred)
- The date you discovered the injury from the malpractice. This may be different
from the first date. For instance, you might discover two weeks after
an operation that the surgeon left a sponge in an incision. The Ohio Supreme
Court calls this moment of recognition a “cognizable event.”
- The date you end your relationship with the treating physician who caused
the malpractice. (The law ideally wants the doctor to be able to fix problems
that he or she caused.)
- If a child has been injured by medical malpractice, the “ticking
clock” doesn’t begin until the child turns 18 years old.
Don’t delay. Waiting could mean losing a right for recovery forever.