We trust doctors and healthcare professionals with our lives. A misdiagnosis or ineffective medication can keep us from feeling better, prevent us from receiving the treatment we need, or even make our symptoms worse. In some cases, improper medical care can lead to severe injury and even death.
When a health care professional engages in behavior that ignores best practices or puts you in unnecessary risk, what recourse do you have? How can you hold doctors and others accountable for the damages that they may have caused?
What Exactly Is Medical Malpractice?
Quite simply, medical malpractice occurs when a doctor causes injury or illness by “departing” from recognized standards of care that is expected while treating patients. If you find yourself injured or suffering because of this type of behavior you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit and receive compensation.
There are three types of medical malpractice damages that you may file for under New York law:
- Compensatory Damages – these are financial damages and losses you acquired due to your injury, including medical bills, time off of work, and so on.
- Non-economic Damages – these damages compensate you for pain and suffering caused by medical malpractice
- Punitive Damages – this is not commonly filed for in medical malpractice suits, but if the defendant acted in a reckless manner or committed acts such as fraud, you may be able to sue for punitive damages as well
Who Is Liable for Medical Malpractice?
Based on New York’s pure comparative negligence rule, multiple sources can be ruled as liable for your injuries – including you.
In most cases, your claim will state that the individual who provided you with improper medical care is liable for the resulting injuries or illnesses. Certain situations might include a doctor who prescribes you an incorrect medication or a surgeon who leaves a foreign object inside of you during surgery.
In a case where you are found partially liable, you may still receive compensation. However, it will be reduced by the rate at which you are found liable. Someone found to be 50% at fault for their injuries will only receive 50% of the damages awarded.
How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Suit?
In most personal injury cases, you have a time limit (called the statute of limitations) during which you can file a claim relating to that injury. In New York, the current statute of limitations for medical malpractice suits is 2 ½ years after the malpractice occurred, although this period can be considerably shorter depending on the facts of your claim.
What If I Discover the Malpractice Years After It Occurred?
This becomes a tricky situation. Lawmakers in New York are considering a big change to the statute of limitations right now to handle issues like this one.
In early June, legislators introduced a bill to extend the statute of limitations to 2 ½ years after the discovery of the incident and 10 years after the malpractice occurred.
The amendment, if passed, will make it easier for victims of complex malpractice (such as a misdiagnosis of cancer) to file a suit in time. However, organizations like The Medical Society are opposed to the amendments.
When Should I Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney to File a Suit?
Immediately! Personal injury law in general can be quite complex and medical malpractice suits are even more complex. Plus, most defendants have very deep pockets who can afford attorneys whose job it is to make sure you do not receive the compensation you deserve.
If you are considering filing a claim for medical malpractice, we highly recommend setting up a free consultation with an experienced New York personal injury lawyer. He or she will be able to look over the facts of your situation and tell you whether or not it seems like you have a strong case.