The answer is simple.
It's really that simple.
Every type of lawsuit in New York has a time in which you must file your lawsuit.
In this article I'm only talking about civil lawsuits seeking money as a means of compensating you for your injuries.
That would include accident cases.
Car accident matters.
Medical malpractice matters.
Wrongful death matters.
Did you know not only are there specific time limits for each type of case, but there are also different time limits depending upon whether you are a child or an adult.
The time limits are different if you were hurt in a municipal hospital.
They're different if you suffered injury at a State hospital such as Stony Brook or Downstate.
The time limits are very clear.
However, there are certain times when those rules don't exactly apply.
Let me give you an example to illustrate this...
Let's say this is a medical malpractice matter.
You believe that your doctor violated the basic standards of medical care.
You believe that your doctor's carelessness was a cause of your injury.
Your doctor worked in a private group practice in an office in Manhattan.
As of the date I'm writing this article (6/7/16) you have only 2 1/2 years years from the date of any wrongdoing within which to bring a lawsuit against a private doctor in New York.
**WARNING- WARNING- WARNING!!**
You can NEVER rely on the time limits you read about online for these lawsuits for the very specific reason that time limits can and do change.
In fact, as I write this, there is a current groundswell effort to change this specific time limit going on right now which has passed the assembly in New York State. The bill is being held up in the Senate where is likely to die a slow and agonizing death.
Getting back to the example a moment ago, there is something known as the continuous treatment doctrine, which might extend the time you have to file your lawsuit.
This means that if you continued to be seen and treated by the same doctor, for the same condition and complaint that you originally went to him for, your time within which you have to file a lawsuit might be extended.
The only definitive way to know for sure whether that applies to you is to have an experienced attorney obtain every one of your medical records and then scour those records with a fine tooth comb to identify what happened on each and every visit.
Only by going through each and every medical record can your attorney determine why you went back, what the doctor did, what his plan of treatment was and whether or not the requirements for continuous treatment would apply in your case.
Simply returning to your doctor's office for treatment, unrelated to the original problem, would not extend the time you have to file your lawsuit.
If you suffered injury in a municipal hospital such as Jacobi Hospital, Bellevue Hospital, Elmhurst Hospital, Queens Hospital, among others, your time limit is significantly shorter.
In fact, there is a very specific procedure you must follow in order to get your foot in the door first if you intend on suing a municipal hospital.
First, you're required to file a notice of claim against the hospital.
Actually, the notice of claim is not filed with the hospital.
Technically, it's filed with the legal corporation that owns and operates the municipal hospital.
In New York, that would be NYC Health + Hospitals Corporation.
If you thought the 2 1/2 year time period to start a lawsuit was unfair, you should know that injured patients who intend on bringing a lawsuit against a municipal hospital are required to file their notice claim within 90 days from the date of the wrongdoing.
Then, you are required to file your lawsuit within one year and 90 days from the date of the wrongdoing.
However, you must be aware that you cannot start your lawsuit unless and until you have filed your notice of claim in a timely fashion.
In addition to filing your claim, you also have to appear for a question and answer session with an attorney who represents NYC Health + Hospitals corporation. It is only 30 days after you have appeared for that hearing are you then permitted to file your lawsuit.
What happens if you did not realize that the hospital caused or contributed to your injuries and now the 90 days has expired?
There is a special procedure that might be available to try and get a judge to grant you permission to file a late notice of claim.
That procedure is very detailed and challenging and there are no guarantees you will be successful.
Even if you are ultimately successful in getting a judge to allow you to file a late notice of claim, it simply means that you have gotten your foot in the door towards bringing your lawsuit.
These time limits, legally known as statute of limitations, are designed to place a strict limit on when someone who did something wrong can expect to be sued.
Did you know that the time limit for a woman to sue her obstetrician on behalf of her baby, for injuries her baby suffered at birth is much longer than an adult who wants to bring a lawsuit.
Some people wait till the very last minute to sue...
I have seen potential clients call me at the very last minute, with days to spare before their time to file a lawsuit has run out. In those instances, I cannot help them.
It becomes physically impossible to drop everything and do a full and thorough investigation to evaluate whether they have a valid case.
This is especially true in medical malpractice cases where all of the patient's medical records must be obtained and then we must hire board-certified experts to confirm that we have a valid case.
That investigation can often take months to a year just to determine whether we have a valid basis to proceed.
You should know that the law in New York requires us to obtain a medical expert in a medical malpractice case to confirm
- There was wrongdoing,
- The wrongdoing caused injury and
- Your injuries are significant and/or permanent.
Alternatively, I've had people call me for help despite the fact that their time to file a lawsuit had clearly expired. In that instance, I have no choice but to tell them I cannot help them.