Westchester Medical Malpractice Lawyers
If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to the negligence of a doctor or other healthcare provider, the experienced Westchester medical malpractice lawyers at Grant & Longworth can help.
New York Medical Malpractice Definition
In New York, medical malpractice occurs when a health care provider fails to provide the expected standard of care. A physician or other healthcare provider who provides care that is found to be substandard is considered to be negligent and liable for malpractice.
What is the Standard of Care?
In legal terms, healthcare professionals are required to give a standard of care that is ordinary or normal in relation to similarly situated professionals. When a physician or other healthcare provider fails to demonstrate the same degree of skill and knowledge that is used by other members of the medical profession in similar circumstances, he or she violates the standard of care, and is considered negligent.
Understanding Medical Malpractice
The medical profession brings health and hope to millions of Americans every day. And even with the incredible advances made by modern medicine, positive outcomes cannot always be guaranteed, even with the best of care. When visiting a healthcare provider, we expect and deserve to receive correct and proper treatment. Most of the time, this is the case. But regrettably, doctors and others we trust to help us when we are sick provide substandard care all too often.
That being said, far too many people are injured or killed due to preventable medical error. A recent Johns Hopkins research study concluded that as many as 250,000 Americans die each year due to medical mistakes, making substandard treatment the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. In addition to the high costs of medical mistakes in terms of lives and quality of life, our nation suffers an estimated $17 billion per year in financial loss due to preventable medical error.
Even more incredibly, it is important to remember that only a small percentage of medical errors are identified and documented. And an even smaller percentage result in litigation and/or license actions. The magnitude of the problem is truly staggering.
How to Prove Medical Medical Malpractice in New York
In order to prove medical malpractice case in New York, an experienced malpractice lawyer must show that:
1. the defendant healthcare provider and/or organization was negligent (e.g. violated the standard of care); and
2. you suffered harm (e.g. sustained damages) due to this negligence.
If you successfully establish that the standard of care was violated (e.g. the provider was negligent), you are entitled to recover compensation for the harm you suffered in the form of damages. Damages are intended to help you return to the condition you were in prior to the injury.
There are several forms of damages that you may recover in a medical malpractice award. These include economic damages (for lost wages or medical expenses) and non-economic damages (for pain and suffering). You may also receive compensation for future medical expenses and loss of future earnings. In rare cases where it is clear that the provider acted recklessly or even intentionally provided substandard care, a court can award punitive damages to punish particularly outrageous or egregious conduct.
Medical malpractice claims are among the most difficult areas of litigation, since the negligent action must be documented and proven within very specific guidelines. Numerous expert witness opinions tend to be required (medical malpractice trials are known as “battles of the experts.”). While choosing the right attorney is always important, there are few areas of law where making the right choice is more critical.
Types of Westchester Medical Malpractice Claims
Many types of malpractice claims are recognized in New York, including:
Birth defects or injuries
A birth defect is an anomaly in the baby’s body that causes mental or physical disabilities. There are thousands of types of birth defects. Sometimes these defects even lead to death. While many defects are caused by the environment or are genetic and unavoidable, some are caused by a doctor’s negligence. These are more commonly known as birth injuries.
While babies are delivered and born every day, sometimes complications occur. Most babies survive minor complications because nurses and doctors are monitoring the baby and ready to step in if the baby’s health is faltering. So when a baby is stuck or suffering from fetal distress and medical staff is not available to step in and help, the baby could die. If the baby does survive, he or she could be born with birth injuries. Bone fractures, hemorrhaging, spinal cord injuries, paralysis and cerebral palsy are common conditions caused by doctors who fail to properly monitor an expectant mother in labor.
Misdiagnosis refers to a doctor or other healthcare provider either:
1. failing to diagnosis a condition; or
2. incorrectly diagnosing a person with a condition other than the one responsible for the presenting symptoms.
Misdiagnosis is quite common, especially in the emergency room. It occurs frequently in both situations where the patient has a rare disease and those where a common disease with nonspecific symptoms is responsible for the patient’s condition. Cancer and heart attacks are most commonly misdiagnosed because people tend to experience different symptoms. Misdiagnosis is a serious medical error because without a correct diagnosis, a patient cannot receive prompt, proper treatment. As a result, the patient’s condition worsens and can lead to irreversible harm or even death.
Even competent doctors make mistakes from time to time. Therefore, a misdiagnosis in itself is not enough to prove that the doctor engaged in medical malpractice. Only by examining the process by which the doctor arrived at his/her diagnosis (e.g. analysis of medical history, physical exam, diagnostic testing) can we determine whether or not the doctor was negligent (and thus liable for malpractice). If the doctor was very thorough, took the proper tests and asked about the patient’s medical history but still arrived at the wrong diagnosis, it is possible that the standard of care was not violated. Contrast this with a situation where a doctor who spends little time taking a history from and/or examining a patient, does not order simple tests to rule out serious conditions and instead diagnoses the patient with common or benign illness. The latter situation could certainly support a claim of medical malpractice.
Wrong Site, Wrong Patient and Wrong Procedure Surgery
There are few types of physician misconduct that are more disturbing to the conscience than wrong site, wrong patient and wrong procedure surgery.
In 2001, National Quality Forum CEO Ken Kiser, MD coined the term “never event” to describe actions in healthcare that are so reprehensible that they should NEVER occur. While there are currently 28 recognized never events, the original three outlined by Dr. Kizer are wrong site surgery, wrong patient surgery and wrong procedure surgery.
While accurate figures are not available, it is estimated that there are over 1,500 wrong site/patient/procedure surgeries in the United States each year. More incredibly, a major medical journal concluded that 25% of orthopedic surgeons will perform a wrong site surgery (e.g. operate on the wrong side of the body) at least once in their careers.
Patient Safety Resources
Patient safety is a discipline within health care that focuses on preventing harm to patients via medical errors, including medical malpractice. Below is a list of resources you may find helpful.
Contact a Westchester Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you or a family member has been injured by a negligent doctor or other health care professional, the person who caused the injury needs to be held accountable. Contact Grant & Longworth today.