Medical malpractice is generally based in the tort law of negligence. A medical professional has a duty to their patients to exercise reasonable care (in some states, referred to as “complying with the prevailing standard of care”) in treating them. This is the crux of the matter: if the physician is found to have breached that duty, it is malpractice – but the mere existence of a poor outcome is not. For example, if a physician cannot successfully excise a tumor from a patient’s chest because doing so would risk puncturing a lung, that is likely not malpractice. If that physician neglected to wash their hands before operating, and the patient acquires a dangerous infection, that likely will be deemed malpractice.
How Does Medical Malpractice Occur?
Some of the more common causes of action brought under the rubric of medical malpractice are:
- Failure to diagnose (also called delay of treatment);
- Improper treatment;
- Surgery errors;
- Birth injuries; and
- Hospital negligence.
In each of these instances, the medical professional must adhere to the standard of care that is in keeping with that of other doctors in their field. In New York, they also must take into account the specific locale. The case of Pike v. Honsinger, 49 N.E. 760 (1898) lays down the standard that a doctor must adhere to a reasonable level of skill and care in keeping with that of other practitioners in his area – not in the entire country, as is the standard in many states, such as Massachusetts. New York lawmakers have defended this standard as being more realistic – there is less disparity in practice in a city or state than there will be in an entire country.
It is important, when debating filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, to be aware of two other factors: the statute of limitations and the law governing damages. The statute of limitations, or time in which you are permitted to file, is three years from the date of the injury, or from when the injury should have been discovered. Beyond that, your claim will be barred, no matter how good a case it is.
In terms of damages, there are three categories that can be awarded in New York. Compensatory damages are awarded for the actual harm done to the patient. Non-economic damages are given when the plaintiff can prove things like pain and suffering – non-tangible harm they have sustained. Punitive damages are given solely to punish – they are rare, but they are awarded when a doctor’s conduct is determined to be so bad as to be wantonly reckless or malevolent. Some states have damage caps, restricting the amount that can be awarded, but New York has not yet enacted any legislation on this matter.
Get An Attorney On Your Side
Doctors are meant to heal, but sometimes, they make things worse. If you have been the victim of medical negligence, the New York Lawyers may be able to help you receive just compensation. We have dedicated medical malpractice attorneys with a wealth of knowledge, ready to help. Contact our New York office for a free initial consultation, and we will discuss your options.