Medical Malpractice: What You Need to Prove Your Claim
How are medical malpractice cases proven?
Medical malpractice isn’t something that just happens in movies, and in fact, according to a recent study, there were 19.3 malpractice claims per 100,000 people in New York in 2015 with a total payout of more than $711 million. (1)
Although the state of New York ranked 30th in the number of malpractice suits per 100,000 people in 2015, it ranked first in the amount of money paid out due to these claims.
Clearly, malpractice suits are an undeniable aspect of the health care system, but they are also misunderstood.
It’s important for patients and their families to have a clear understanding of how medical malpractice is legally defined, and the type of evidence necessary to meet the burden of proof in these types of claims.
Defining Medical Malpractice
Defining medical malpractice is important because without knowing the legal standards that apply to these cases, it’s impossible to know if a doctor can be held legally responsible.
Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, nurse or another type of healthcare professional, harms or injures a patient due to negligence, either by doing something that should not have been done, or by failing to do something necessary for the patient.
In New York, a legal complaint for medical malpractice must ordinarily be accompanied by a certificate of merit signed by the medical malpractice attorney certifying that an independent physician has reviewed the medical records and found that there is reasonable cause to believe that the professional accused of malpractice deviated from the standards of care applicable to that type of case.
Those standards include showing that the physician or health care professional had a duty of care to the patient, violated that duty of care through some act or omission, and that the physician’s conduct fell below what a reasonable and prudent physician would have done under the circumstances.
Types of Medical Malpractice
Some of the most common types of medical malpractice include:
- Misdiagnosis – This refers to a number of different things, including failing to order a test, failing to screen for a specific disease or ailment, failing to have patients consult with specialists, or failing to ask patients about their symptoms.
- Surgical Negligence – This refers to any type of error during a surgical procedure that causes harm or injury to the patient. One of the most common types of surgical errors occurs when a surgeon operates on the wrong side of a patient’s body.
- Medication Error – This refers to a doctor or medical professional that prescribes the wrong medication to a patient, tells a patient to take a higher dosage than is recommended, or fails to recognize the possibility of a dangerous interaction with another drug.
- Childbirth Injuries – This refers to injuries that a doctor causes during the delivery of a newborn, including brain injuries and fractured bones.
Medical Malpractice Evidence
In order to prove negligence, claimants must provide medical malpractice evidence that would meet the legal standard, including:
- Establish that there was a relationship between doctor and patient.
- Provide evidence that shows the doctor did not act with reasonable care. The plaintiff must ordinarily elicit expert testimony from a physician in that same area of practice that the defendant departed from accepted standards of care.
- Provide evidence that shows that the doctor’s negligence caused some injury to the patient, or caused the patient’s death. In cases of delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis, there must be proof that the delay in rendering the proper diagnosis and treatment caused the patient to be deprived of a better chance of cure. This issue comes up frequently in cancer cases, where it may be contested by the defendant as to whether the misdiagnosis permitted the cancer to spread, get worse and result in the patient having to undergo more extensive treatment or the patient suffering a worse prognosis, or causing the patient’s death.
It’s worth noting that some medical malpractice laws have gotten tighter over the past few years. While many states have established “caps” on the amount of money juries can award a claimant, New York is not one of those states and therefore has no cap on damage awards.
It is important to remember that in New York claimants must ordinarily file a suit within two years and six months of the time the act occurred or the last date of continuous treatment by the physician. In cases of cancer misdiagnosis, New York recently enacted a “discovery” rule that permits the filing of the lawsuit within 2 and ½ years from the discovery of the misdiagnosis.
The Role of a New York Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Being the victim of Medical Malpractice is not something anyone is prepared to handle alone. Victims have the right to seek compensation for injuries, and hiring an experienced NYC medical malpractice attorney is the first step toward justice.
NYC Medical Malpractice Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter. T: 212-736-0979
Prior results cannot and do not guarantee or predict a similar outcome with respect to any future case. Recoveries always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case, the injuries suffered, damages incurred, and the responsibility of those involved.