• Statute of Limitations in New York

In civil cases, the statute of limitations sets the deadline by which a person must start a lawsuit. The statute of limitations sets forth in law how long one has to initiate legal proceedings for another person or party’s wrongful conduct. For civil lawsuits such as medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and fall and personal injury cases, the statute of limitations determines how long one has to file a summons and complaint, which formally starts a lawsuit. Once the time specified in the statute of limitations expires, a person can no longer file a lawsuit on the matter unless granted an exemption.

There is no universal statute of limitations. The time period to bring a legal action will vary based on the type of case, the defendant and the court in which a case is brought.  The statute of limitations varies significantly for cases against municipalities (such as the City of New York) and municipal agencies (such as the Metropolitan Transportation Agency – MTA). They also vary for cases brought by or on behalf of a minor.

As you read this material, you will see that the concept of the statute of limitations is complex and can result in the dismissal of an otherwise perfectly valid lawsuit. The information I present here is meant as a general guide and not a specific or definitive analysis of the timeframe for you to bring a lawsuit for a specific case. If you have questions, you should consult an experienced New York attorney.

The Statute of Limitations Applies to Legal Remedies, Not Insurance Coverage

The Statute of Limitations applies to bringing lawsuits.  It does not apply to matters such as filing insurance claims. For example, the statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit over a motor vehicle accident (against a non-municipal defendant) is three years, yet you only have 30 days to file a No-Fault Insurance claim. Likewise, you must notify your employer within 30 days of an incident to file a claim for Worker’s Compensation. (There are some exceptions to the Worker’s Compensation deadline and you may want to consult an attorney if you have questions.)

Examples of the Statute of Limitations in New York

In general, the Statute of Limitations in New York varies by type of case, though there is a separate set of guidelines for actions brought against municipalities (e.g. the City of New York) and municipal agencies (e.g., The Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and on behalf of minors. I address those topics later in this article.

Here are some sample Statutes of Limitations in New York:

  • Car Accident Cases (and other Motor Vehicle Cases): New York State law permits you to start a lawsuit within three years from the date of the accident. This applies to cases involving two or more motor vehicles or motor vehicles involved in accidents with pedestrians or bicyclists. Note: While the statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit is three years, New York No-Fault insurance requires you to file a claim within thirty days of the accident. 

 

  • Medical Malpractice Cases: In New York State, a person must file a medical malpractice lawsuit no later than two and a half years (30 months) from the malpractice act (or omission) or from the end of the continuous treatment during which the act or omission took place. There are medical malpractice cases with different timeframes. For example, claims against municipal hospitals or clinics face much shorter filing dates. If a minor suffers damages due to medical malpractice, New York extends the statute of limitations to three years past the date on which the minor turns 18; however, the action cannot start later than ten years from the date of the incident or the last day of treatment (whichever is later).  You can read more about medical malpractice statute of limitations here
  • Slip and Fall Cases: New York State law allows three years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit.
  • Wrongful Death Cases: New York State law allows two years from the date of the death to bring a lawsuit.
  • Products Liability Cases: New York State law allows three years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit. 
  • Intentional Act (such as battery): New York State law allows one year from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit. 
  • Personal Injury Cases: New York State law allows three years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit. 
  • Fraud: New York State law allows six years from the date of the fraudulent act to bring a lawsuit. 
  • Contracts: New York State law allows six years from the date of the breach to bring a lawsuit. 
  • Defamation of Character (including Libel and Slander): New York State law allows one year from the date of the incident to bring a lawsuit.

Lawsuits Involving a Municipality or Municipal Agency

New York State Law affords special protection for municipalities and municipal agencies. Before you can bring a lawsuit against a municipal agency, you must file a Notice of Claim. You must file that Notice of Claim within 90 days of the incident or accident.

The Notice of Claim gives the municipality or municipal agency 30 days to request a pre-suit hearing (a 50-h hearing) or a pre-suit medical exam. If the municipality or municipal agency requests a pre-suit hearing or medical exam, you cannot file a lawsuit until after the completion of the hearing or medical exam.

For a legal action against a municipality or municipal agency, you must file the action within one year and 90 days from the date of the accident or incident. If the suit involves the MTA, you must file the suit against the MTA within one year and 30 days of the incident.

Municipalities include the City of New York and all the cities, towns and villages within the State of New York. Municipal agencies include the New York City Housing Authority, all of the public transportation systems, bridge and tunnel authorities, water authorities and other organizations operating as public agencies.

Lawsuits Involving a Minor

New York State law recognizes that damages done to minors present special challenges. As a result, New York State Law generally delays the start of the statute of limitations until the minor turns 18. Here are some examples as they apply to lawsuits on behalf of a minor:

 The statute of limitations for a car accident is still three years, but the three years does not start until the minor turns 18 years old.

  • The statute of limitations for an intentional act is still one year, but that one year does not start until the minor turns 18.
  • The statute of limitations for bring a lawsuit against a municipality remains one year and 90 days, but does not commence until the minor turns 18.
  • The statute of limitations for medical malpractice remains 30 months and does not commence until the minor turns 18. However, a medical malpractice lawsuit must start no later than 10 years from the incident or the end of treatment.

I hope you have found this information helpful. I do need to remind you that this information offers general guidelines. If you have questions about a specific case, you should consult an experienced lawyer in New York. I will be glad to answer your questions and assist you. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me. You can also visit my website or read more on my blog, New York Law Thoughts.  

Carol L. Schlitt
New York Personal Injury Attorney
http://schlittlaw.com/
1-800-660-1466
Carol@SchlittLaw.com

This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney.

  • Deborah Adams

    Resident of NY state, was found to be at fault motor vehicle accident that caused serious injuries to me and lost of my vehicle. DOA 4/19/10.
    Attorney handling matter in MA where accident occurred is not licensed to practice in NY, where driver/at fault party resides. Do I have recourse in NY courts against said at fault party?

    • http://www.Schlittlaw.com Carol L. Schlitt

      If I understand correctly, you were involved in an accident that occurred in Massachusetts. I am not familiar with Massachusetts state law, but it is my understanding that Massachusetts has what is known as a “Long Arm Statute.” This law says that if an out-of-state party commits a tortious act in Massachusetts (such as causing an automobile accident through negligence), that person is subject to the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts courts. In plain English, that means if an out-of-state driver causes an accident in Massachusetts, you can sue that driver in Massachusetts. Massachusetts state law will apply.

      You want a Massachusetts attorney to handle your case and it sounds as if you have one. You will have to serve a Summons and Complaint on the other driver in New York and your attorney can make those arrangements.

      If you win a judgment against the New York driver, you can enter the judgment in New York. Again, your lawyer can arrange for that process.

      I hope this information helps.

  • l p

    on 7/22/10 my 87 year old mom fell approx. 8′ down a trap door in the floor in my daughter’s rental house. the trap door goes into the basement and was left open by my daughter’s roommate who was doing laundry (washer located in basement). mom fell straight down 8 feet to the cement floor.

    she was helicoptered to the er. she survived but sustained serious injuries including a head bleed, concussion, fractured ribs, clavicle, and chipped shoulder bone. she stayed in the hospital for 5 days, then in an acute physical therapy facility for 8 days, and then a sub acute physical therapy facility for 3 weeks. she is now living in my home (where she lived prior to accident) still a having physical therapy and is seen weekly by a nurse. the agency overseeing her care wants someone here in the home with her 24/7; we have been able to provide this so far with family.

    right up until the accident she was living a full life- still working as a clerk and still driving. she is working very hard at her physical therapy but may or may not recover enough to go back to work. the fall has aggravated leg problems caused by a nerve injury 40 years ago, and she seems mentally to be somewhat less capable.

    the landlord required my daughter and her roommate to purchase their own insurance policies prior to moving in. since he has no mortgage he said he does not maintain insurance.

    i have a few questions –
    1-have we gone past the ny statute of limitations to file a claim?
    2-is there a case against the landlord for having this trap door in his house? (there is also an outside entrance to the basement)
    3-would we be suing the landlord or my daughter and her roommate?

    • http://www.Schlittlaw.com Carol L. Schlitt

      I am sorry to hear about your mother’s injuries. We are all vulnerable to injuries; though it seems as if the elderly are particularly vulnerable and often time have difficulty fully recovering from as traumatic an event that your mother suffered. Admire her commitment to physical therapy and hope that her hard work pays off in the form of a full recovery.
      Now let me address your questions about a potential personal injury lawsuit. Your mother might have the grounds to sue if the negligence or recklessness of another caused her injures and if she suffered significant injuries. Your mother would have three years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit, so the statue of limitations does not expire until July 22, 2013.
      From your description, it is clear that your mother has suffered significant injuries that are worthy of compensation. The question is did someone’s negligence or recklessness cause or substantially contribute to her fall? Here are some possibilities:
      • The landlord could be negligent because he is responsible for the design and maintenance of the trap door. Is there something inherently dangerous about the location or design of the trap door? Were there precautions the landlord should have reasonably taken to guard accident this type of accident? These precautions could include putting up warning signs or protective railings.

      • Your daughter’s roommate could be responsible if she acted negligently and that negligence caused or substantially contributed to this accident. For example, if the landlord had instructed the roommate to put up a railing or a warning sign every time she opened the trap door and she failed to do so in this instance, then she might be liable.

      • Your daughter and the roommate could be jointly responsible if together they acted negligently and that negligence caused or substantially contributed to this accident. For example, if they were instructed to put up a warning sign and did not, then they could be liable. If your sister and the roommate knew of the hazard and reasonably should have taken steps to prevent a fall like your mothers, then they could both be liable.

      Your mother may bear some comparative liability in this case. If she knew of the trap door, she could have avoided it or been more cautious around it. Perhaps she should have seen that it was open and should have avoided the area.
      Based on the information that you have provided, these are possible liability scenarios, but I would need to learn more facts and investigate the case to guide you.
      The Role of Insurance in a Premise Liability Case
      You mention that the landlord does not have insurance, but your daughter and her roommate do. Insurance provides two benefits to both a potential defendant and plaintiff. Depending on the nature of the incident and the policy, the insurance policy would pay for any damages that the defendant agreed to pay or was ordered to pay by a court. The insurance company would also provide legal counsel on the case.
      The fact that the landlord does not have insurance does not eliminate his potential liability. You could proceed with a lawsuit and the landlord would have to pay for his own legal counsel and would have to pay for any judgment or settlement.
      You mention that your daughter has insurance for her apartment. She should check to see if it covers incidents such as slips and falls.
      How to Proceed?
      From the information that you have provided, your mother might have a case to collect for the damages she has suffered. It is not clear who is liable for her injuries and what exact theory of liability you would need to use. Answering those questions requires a more complete investigation into the case.
      I recommend that you consult an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. This consultation should be free. (I never charge for a consultation nor do most good personal injury attorneys.) If you reside in the New York metropolitan area, I would be glad to answer your questions and assist you. If you reside elsewhere and need help finding an attorney, I would be glad to help you. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me. You can also visit my website or read more on my blog, New York Law Thoughts.
      Carol L. Schlitt
      New York Personal Injury Attorney
      http://www.SchlittLaw.com
      1-800-660-1466
      Carol@SchlittLaw.com
      This material is intended for informational uses only. It is not meant as legal advice. To receive legal advice, you should consult an attorney.