Q: Is there a time limit on bringing a medical malpractice case?
There is a special kind of grief when a loved one goes into the hospital for surgery and doesn’t come out alive. The unexpected death may leave surviving family members not only grief stricken or in financial distress, but even second-guessing the decision to have had the surgery. Could there have been medical malpractice? Imagine accepting and struggling through this loss without question only to find out several years later-through a reporter reaching out to you-that there was an investigation into your loved one’s death, that the surgeon involved was fired and fled to another state, and that he is no longer licensed to practice in the state. That’s what happened to two families whose loved ones were operated on by the same young cardiothoracic surgeon, a month apart in the summer of 2011. Both patients had heart bypass and/or heart valve repair/replacement surgeries, both experienced extended time on cardiopulmonary bypass machines, and both died in the hospital after surgery. The two back-to-back deaths prompted a state investigation wherein questions were raised regarding the surgeon’s decisions to continue an attempted challenging artery harvest rather switching to a vein harvest in one patient and the decision to attempt and continue with a challenging valve repair instead of a valve replacement in the other patient. The surgeon was first licensed to practice in the state in May, 2011. The hospital terminated the surgeon, who denied any unprofessional conduct, in October 2011. But the families of the deceased patients were never notified about the investigation or termination until contacted recently by a reporter. Laws vary from state to state regarding the amount of time one has to commence a lawsuit or forfeit the right to do so-this time limit is referred to as the “statute of limitations". And the time limit differs depending on the type of claim, with New York wrongful death claims having one of the shortest deadlines-just 2 years from the death of a loved one due to the negligent or reckless actions of another. In New York, medical malpractice claims must be commenced within 2 ½ years from the date of the incident or the cessation of continuous treatment. So it’s important to contact an attorney who specializes in medical malpractice as soon as you suspect that the doctor who caused injury to you or your loved one departed from good and accepted medical practice during the treatment. Even if you think too much time has lapsed, an experienced attorney can assess your situation to determine whether any tolling provisions may apply or whether commencing an alternative claim with a longer statute of limitations might still be possible. The Manhattan law firm of Jaroslawicz & Jaros has represented those who’ve suffered injuries or have died as a result of medical malpractice for over 40 years. Contact us for a free consultation at 212.227.2780 or 800.269.2780.