STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
Regardless of what state you may be in, the biggest questions that surround the statutes of limitations are: When does it start? When does it end? How long does it last? There are two basic rules that states may follow: the occurrence rule and the discovery rule. The occurrence rule allows for the statute of limitation to start when the alleged injury or malpractice occurred. New York State is an occurrence state in that the statute of limitation for malpractice is 2.5 years from the time the alleged injury occurred. Because the doctor-patient relationship is based on contract law, there is also a statute of limitation for breach of contract for 6 years. Hence, the minimal time for records retention is 7 years in New York. The discovery rule allows for the statute of limitation, normally 2–3 years in such states, to start when the patient discovers or should have discovered the injury or negligence. This may extend the statute at least to the life of the patient. Hence, the minimum time for records retention for a discovery state such as California is forever. There are also many variations in the different statute of limitations when minors are involved. In New York, it is within 10 years of the treatment or 2 years past 18 years of age, whichever comes first . Per the state statute, some states empower the state dental board, as in New York’s Office of Professional Discipline, to have no statute of limitation.
It is therefore best to inform the patient of any adverse, unexpected, or negative results of treatment as soon as possible such that the statute of limitation begins to run. It should be pointed out that the sooner the situation is brought to the attention of the patient, the more understanding the patient is likely to be, because the doctor–patient relationship is the strongest and the patient’s trust is highest during treatment. If the patient discovers the situation while outside the doctor–patient relationship (perhaps from ano/>