Medical malpractice is the failure of a medical professional to exercise the care and skill provided generally by medical professionals under like conditions and similar circumstances.
Under New York law, a patient or certain family members of a deceased patient may obtain compensation for injuries and losses they have suffered due to medical malpractice. To prevail in a claim, the plaintiff must prove that the substandard medical care resulted in an injury.
Once the plaintiff establishes that the medical error led to the injury, damages are determined. These damages should cover compensation for actual economic losses such as medical expenses and non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.
A plaintiff must file a medical malpractice claim within a certain time period. This deadline is known as the “statute of limitations.”
In New York, the statute of limitations in a medical malpractice lawsuit is 2½ years from the date of the alleged malpractice or from the end of continuous treatment rendered by the defendant.
To help you better understand the elements of a medical malpractice in New York, the attorneys of Powers & Santola, LLP, provide the following summary:
Demonstrating Medical Malpractice
A medical malpractice claim may arise if a medical professional – doctor, nurse, physician’s assistant, lab technician or other health care professional – or if a hospital or health care facility fails to care for someone in accordance with the accepted standards of the medical profession, and that person suffers an injury, becomes ill or their condition or illness worsen as a result.
To prevail in a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must prove:
- He or she was under the care of a doctor, nurse or other health care professional
- In the course of advising, diagnosing or treating the plaintiff, the professional failed to act according to prevailing medical standards or as another would have in a like or similar situation
- As a direct and substantial result of the physician’s failure, the plaintiff suffered injury, became ill or an existing condition or injury worsened.
Physicians generally carry medical malpractice insurance to protect them in case medical negligence or unintentional injury leads to a lawsuit. Any damages awarded in a malpractice case will likely be paid by the physician’s insurer.
If a claim goes to court, proving the elements of a medical malpractice case can be a complex undertaking. The investigative work to prove a claim includes gathering and reviewing evidence from medical records and deposing (questioning under oath) the defendant and others connected to the case.
Both sides in the case will use medical experts to review evidence and testify as expert witnesses if the case goes to court. A witness recognized as an “expert” by the court will be allowed to offer an opinion as to the professional standards of the medical community and whether the defendant’s professional conduct breached the expected standard of care the patient should have received.
Testimony and evidence must also convince a jury that there is a direct relationship or “proximate causation” between the alleged misconduct and an injury suffered by the plaintiff.
Most malpractice claims can be settled through negotiations with the insurer and/or the medical professionals involved in the case. This may be a move of expediency on the insurer’s / physician’s part to avoid the time and expense of defending against the claim. It may also be a matter of avoiding a certain loss and potentially steep jury award.
Accepting a settlement is the plaintiff’s decision. Your attorney should notify you of any settlement offers and provide an assessment of whether it is an appropriate amount.
Your attorney may make a counter demand in settlement negotiations. Once a settlement agreement is reached, the case ends. Payment is disbursed by the defendant. An attorney must then carefully resolve all liens and other claims that may be asserted to the plaintiff’s recovery.
Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case
As an essential element of a medical malpractice case, a plaintiff must show that he or she suffered harm and is due compensation because of the injury. This involves demonstrating the monetary value of the plaintiff’s losses.
Economic damages cover specific costs such as:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost income due to inability to work.
These damages can be calculated through a review of existing payments and bills, work and income records plus a projection of future or ongoing costs and losses in the cases of temporary or permanent disability.
Non-economic damages compensate a plaintiff for such things as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of companionship.
Non-economic damages are often a multiple of compensatory damages. It is the malpractice attorney’s job to persuade a jury (or insurance defense attorney) that an award of non-economic damages is appropriate.
In a few cases, punitive damages may be justified. These are meant to punish a defendant for especially egregious or reckless conduct. An example may be a doctor performing surgery while intoxicated or intentionally destroying or hiding medical records.
In addition to being able to show that there was injury to the patient that can be compensated monetarily, plaintiffs must consider whether the damages that are likely to be awarded will be enough to cover the costs of pursuing a claim while also yielding adequate compensation.
Contact Our New York Medical Malpractice Attorneys
A medical malpractice claim is a lengthy and complex undertaking. Not all potential claims can or should move forward, but every case of unanticipated injury or death while under medical care should be explained. If you or a loved has been injured while under medical care and have any questions about the quality of medical care you received, you should have a medical malpractice attorney investigate your case.
The law firm of Powers & Santola, LLP, investigates and pursues medical malpractice claims in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and throughout New York State. Where we believe the evidence shows the elements of a medical malpractice claim can be proven, we can pursue compensation for you.
Schedule a free initial consultation with one of our medical malpractice attorneys today by calling us or submitting our online form. We are here to listen to you and help you.