New York has some of the best hospitals and medical clinics throughout the country. Most of the time, the healthcare professionals employed by these facilities are experienced and provide the necessary care to get patients back to good health.
Unfortunately, there are some instances in which this does not happen. Sometimes healthcare professionals make mistakes, and when they do, the results can be disastrous. When a doctor makes a misdiagnosis or fails to diagnose a serious condition, for example, the mistake can be fatal.
However, not every unpleasant or unsuccessful result from a visit to the doctor is the result of negligence. So, if you are continuing to suffer from a medical issue or have received treatment that did not work, how do you know if you have a medical malpractice case?
Unsuccessful Results vs. Medical Malpractice
Anyone who needs to see a doctor does so with the hope that the doctor will make him or her feel better. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
After diagnosing a condition or illness, doctors will prescribe a certain course of treatment. This can include prescription medication, physical therapy, or even surgery. However, just because treatment is prescribed does not always mean it is successful. What may work with one patient may not work for another. This does not necessarily mean that medical malpractice took place.
Sometimes doctors are simply not sure what the right course of treatment is. In these instances, they may try several different treatments, waiting for the right one to work. Again, just because one treatment did not work does not mean the doctor is guilty of medical malpractice. Even if in the end, none of the treatments worked, it still does not rise to the level of medical malpractice.
Medical malpractice only occurs if the doctor or other healthcare worker did not act in a reasonable manner to best help the patient. The courts will determine if another doctor in the same geographical area would have acted the same way. If another doctor would have done the same thing, then it is simply a case of unsuccessful treatment and not medical malpractice.
If the courts determine that another doctor would not have acted in the same way, then the doctor may be deemed negligent, and that negligence may have been the cause of your injuries. In these instances, the courts will allow a medical malpractice lawsuit to proceed.
Proving a Medical Malpractice Claim
Any personal injury case must prove four elements. If those elements are proven, then you likely have a medical malpractice claim. These elements include duty, breach, causation, and damages.
In order to prove duty, you must prove there was a doctor/patient relationship. This does not mean that the doctor was one you saw regularly. In fact, if you went to an emergency department for an illness or injury, it is assumed that you have a relationship with the doctor treating you even if you have never met him or her before. It only needs to be shown that there was a duty present, which is often an easier aspect of medical malpractice cases to prove.
However, doctors do not have a duty to patients all the time. For example, if someone had a heart attack in a restaurant and an off-duty doctor was also dining at the same restaurant, there is no doctor-patient relationship established. The doctor has no legal duty to help the person in distress.
Once the duty is established, it then must be proven that the doctor or healthcare worker breached that duty. Again, when proving negligence, this will include comparing the actions of one doctor or healthcare worker to the actions that another doctor would have taken. If the doctor failed to act reasonably, you could have a medical malpractice case.
Proving causation means proving that the doctor’s actions are the reason for your injury or illness. For example, if you went to a doctor because your arm was broken and the doctor only treated your arm, it is unlikely that you could sue the doctor for your foot hurting the next day. However, if an emergency room fails to make a pneumonia diagnosis and you end up becoming septic because of it, it is likely a case of medical malpractice because there is a direct link between your original condition and your current condition.
Lastly, you will need to prove that you have suffered damages, or losses. All personal injury cases rest on damages. If there are no injuries or losses, there is nothing to compensate for and so, there is no case. However, if you have incurred medical bills, a loss of income, or any other losses, it is possible that you have a case.
Certificate of Merit in Medical Malpractice Cases
While an attorney can help you prove the four elements needed for a medical malpractice case, there is one element that will make your case even more iron-clad. That is the certificate of merit requirement.
Under the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, Section 3012-a, anyone filing a medical malpractice lawsuit must present a certificate of merit. In order to obtain a certificate, at least one other doctor or healthcare worker must review the case. The doctor or doctors must have knowledge about the specific issues of a case. For example, if you believe a doctor misdiagnosed your cancer, you could not obtain a certificate of merit from a dentist. You would need an oncologist.
After reviewing the case, the doctor or healthcare worker will then provide a written statement. In this statement, the doctor will attest to how they would have acted in the same situation. If they would have acted differently, this provides the certificate of merit necessary for medical malpractice cases.
It is often difficult to obtain certificates of merit. Doctors are busy with their own patients and simply do not have the required time to fully review a case and provide an opinion about it. For this reason, these certificates are sometimes not obtained until the statute of limitations on a medical malpractice lawsuit has expired. When this is the case, the law allows you to file your lawsuit, and submit the certificate of merit within 90 days of filing.
A New York Medical Malpractice Attorney can Advise You
It is often difficult to determine whether or not you have a valid medical malpractice claim. Was the doctor negligent, or did you just have unsuccessful results? An experienced medical malpractice lawyer in New York can help you determine the answer.
If you believe you have been a victim of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation, and we would like to help you get it. We will review the facts of your case and if we believe a doctor or healthcare worker has been negligent, we will help you obtain the certificate of merit required. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, we will work hard to pursue any compensation to which you are entitled. If you have been injured by a doctor or medical facility, call us today to learn more about how we can help.