Medical malpractice cases occur when any type of medical professional fails to conduct proper health care procedure or treatments. Even in a large city like New York, most caregivers make mistakes in a rather small number of cases. However, within that minority, certain recurring negligence can be found. To understand how medical malpractice lawsuits arise, it is recommended to learn more about the most common errors doctors, nurses and hospitals make, and the legal definition of medical malpractice.
Types of Medical Malpractice
While a wide spectrum of situations can lead to a medical malpractice claim, most circumstances fall into one of these categories:
Failure to Diagnose bases claim that it the patient had been seen by a capable doctor, then their illness may have been discovered or their diagnosis would have been different.
Improper treatment asserts that a patient has been treated differently than any other competent doctor would have treated them. This type of case may also be opened if a doctor selects an appropriate treatment, but administers it inexpertly.
Failure to Warn a Patient of Known Risks prescribes fault to doctors who have not properly disclosed the possible risks of treatment to patients, which is also known as the duty of informed consent. If a patient were correctly informed of the warnings, and elected not to undergo a procedure or treatment, a doctor may be liable for malpractice if the or procedure in a way the doctor should have forewarned could be the outcome.
Occurrences that fit into the above criteria may be justified for a lawsuit. Some of the most common types of claims are characterized next.
Claims for Medical Malpractice
Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis together make up the largest percentage of medical malpractice complaints. When a doctor fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses a condition, the patient risks losing treatment opportunities that could have prevented life-threatening harm or death.
Many fetal conditions can be caused by medical malpractice during or immediately following birth. This includes brain injuries like cerebral palsy and seizure disorders, fractured bones and nerve damage that leads to erb’s and klumpke’s palsy.
Negligent Prenatal Care
If negligent medical treatment is given throughout pregnancy, it could result in harm to the fetus or mother. Examples of careless prenatal care include a physician or obstetrician:
- Failing to diagnose a medical condition of the mother that could result in maternal mortality
- Failing to identify birth defects
- Failing to identify ectopic pregnancies
- Failing to diagnose a disease that could be contagious to the fetus
Negligence During Childbirth
A doctor’s negligence during childbirth can cause injury to the baby and harm to the mother. Common medical errors made during childbirth include the physician or obstetrician:
- Failing to anticipate birth complications
- Failing to respond to signs of fetal distress
- Failing to order a cesarean section when one was appropriate
- Incompetent use of forceps or extractor
Medication errors harm millions of New Yorkers every year and can occur from initial prescription to administration of a drug.
The most common medication errors involve a patient receiving either too little or too much a given drug. This can happen several ways:
- The doctor prescribes an incorrect dosage
- The prescription is correct, but the nurse administers the wrong amount
- Equipment that administers the drug malfunctions
Anesthesia mistakes are very dangerous – even a small miscalculation or error by the anesthesiologist can result in permanent injury, brain damage, or death. An anesthesiologist can commit medical malpractice by:
- Failing to investigate the patient’s medical history for possible complications
- Failing to inform the patient of the risks involved if preoperative instructions aren’t obeyed
- Administering too much anesthesia to the patient
- Failing to monitor the patient’s vital signs
- Improperly intubating patients
- Using defective equipment
A surgeon may be negligent during an operation itself (puncturing organs, operating on the wrong body part, or leaving surgical instruments inside the body) or the nursing staff could be named negligent in administering post-op care which resulted in complications such as a life-threatening infection.
Getting Help with a Medical Malpractice Case
Medical malpractice cases in New York face a set of stringent regulations. It is essential to seek counsel or representation from a New York medical malpractice lawyer who has experience handling these types of lawsuits.
To prove that medical malpractice occurred, you must be able to exemplify the following:
A Doctor-Patient Relationship Existed
You must show evidence that you had a physician-patient relationship with the doctor you are suing. In the simplest of terms, this means you hired the doctor and the doctor agreed to be hired.
The Doctor Was Negligent
If you are suing solely because you are unhappy with your treatment or results, you may not have a liable case. The doctor must have been negligent in connection with your diagnosis or treatment. New York requires that the patient presents a medical expert to discuss the appropriate standard of care and show how the defendant deviated from those guidelines.
The Injury Led to Specific Damages
Even if it is clear that the doctor performed below the expected standards in his or her field, the patient can’t sue for malpractice if the patient didn’t suffer any harm. Below are examples of the types of harm patients can sue for physical pain, mental anguish, additional medical bills, and/or lost work and decreased earning capacity
Special Requirements in Medical Malpractice Cases
New York has special rules and procedures for medical malpractice claims. It is important to know about these rules and follow them carefully.
Statute of Limitations
If you are suing a New York medical professional, you must submit a claim within 30 months. This time period is referred to the “statute of limitations.” If you do not file the lawsuit within the specified period of time, the court will dismiss the case.
If the lawsuit is for wrongful death, the statute of limitations is typically two years from the date of death.
There are rules that do extend the statute of limitations. If a foreign object was left inside a patient’s body, the time of the statute of limitations begins on the date the object was discovered.
And with children, the statute of limitations has a ten year start period.
Once a patient has hired a New York medical malpractice attorney, extensive interviews are conducted to gather as much relevant information as possible. A medical malpractice lawyer will request authorizations for medical records.
New York State Law requires that an attorney has your case reviewed by a physician who specializes in the field for which the negligence occurred.
The attorneys for the plaintiff-patient then prepare “bills of particular,” detailing information about the patient’s medical history, the treatment received and the damages suffered as a result of the negligence.
The court will then schedule a “Preliminary Conference” with the attorneys for both parties. At this conference the attorneys converse about the materials they have received from each other and request further authorizations, if need be. The court then orders that “Depositions” of all parties be held.
When all detective work has been completed, another conference is held with the court and the case is marked ready for trial. A “Note of Issue” is then filed, which places the case on the trial calendar.
Medical malpractice cases are given a higher priority on the trial calendar and placed ahead of all other cases.
The jury in a medical malpractice case is asked questions regarding liability – if they believe the medical professionals failed to give the patient reasonable care, and if the failure to provide reasonable care injured the patient. The jury also decides the amount of money awarded to the patient if reasonable care was not provided.
If the patient wins the lawsuit, their attorney will prepares a “Judgment” stating the amount that the jury has awarded.