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what counts as medical malpractice

Medical malpractice is an incident that only occurs when a doctor, hospital, or any healthcare provider or professional causes an injury to a patient through negligence or an act of omission. Such mistakes can occur for a variety of reasons. But the defining aspect of medical malpractice is that the victim’s injury would not have happened or was worsened were it not for the actions of a medical professional.

Medical malpractice cases are very common in the United States. Victims of medical malpractice may file lawsuits against hospitals or specific medical professionals to receive compensation for damages caused by negligence.

The Four Staples of a Medical Malpractice Case

The following four components must be proven by a patient and their lawyer in order to file a successful medical malpractice lawsuit:

  • The patient and doctor had a direct connection, and the doctor in question was required to treat the patient
  • The doctor did not provide a consistent standard of care. This is defined as the common and accepted practices or procedures adopted by other professionals in the field
  • The patient suffered an injury or condition
  • That injury or condition was caused directly by the negligence of the medical professional

Proving each of these requires investigation and often expert testimony. Skilled New York medical malpractice attorneys are invaluable assets for anyone seeking to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Attorneys can help by gathering evidence, handling paperwork, guiding patients through the legal process, and fighting for maximum compensation in court.

Common Types of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice cases vary by the type of error made by the doctor or hospital in question. Here are the most common examples of medical malpractice in the US.

Failure to Diagnose

A failure to diagnose occurs when a doctor performs the relevant and accepted tests for a patient’s perceived condition, then does not notice the correct symptoms of a disease or injury and sends the patient away untreated. For example, a doctor may fail to diagnose cancer despite the signs being clear on an x-ray.

Misdiagnosis

A misdiagnosis occurs when a medical professional diagnoses a patient incorrectly for an injury or disease. This may result in improper treatment – for example, a patient may be prescribed medication that does nothing to help with their symptoms, leading to side effects or worse symptoms down the road.

Failure to Treat

A doctor may fail to treat a condition or illness, whether they recognized it correctly or not. They may, for instance, consider a patient’s injury to be immaterial or minor and tell them to toughen up, instead of prescribing effective treatment.

Unnecessary Surgery

Some surgeons may perform unnecessary surgery, either because of an improper diagnosis or in an attempt to get more money for the treatment.

Surgical Errors

A surgical error occurs when a medical professional makes a mistake during surgery that they should not have. For instance, a doctor might make an accidental incision, or leave a foreign object in a patient’s body during an operation.

Poor Aftercare/Observation

Many medical patients, especially those who undergo surgery, need aftercare and observation to check for infection and to prevent any further complications. Doctors or hospitals that do not do this correctly may be found guilty of medical malpractice.

Ignoring Patient Orders/Information

Certain doctors may not take patient information or requests into account. This often occurs with women, whose symptoms or complaints are often not taken seriously by male doctors.

Childbirth Errors

Errors in childbirth, either with the dosage of medication or when retrieving a newborn, may occur during the child birthing process. This type of medical malpractice also extends to improper cesarean section procedures.

Is Any Medical Mistake Automatically Malpractice?

No. Medical procedures and treatments, and especially certain types of surgeries, are inherently complex. Mistakes made with the best intentions, and when they occur when a medical professional is following the correct procedures and protocols, are usually not malpractice.

Is Medical Malpractice Common in New York?

Yes. In fact, payouts to New York medical malpractice victims have alone accounted for 20% of all malpractice costs in the US since 2003.

Furthermore, a 2017 breakdown of state medical malpractice data indicates that:

  • Approximately 19 residents per 100,000 sue for medical malpractice each year
  • Payouts for all New York medical malpractice cases in 2017 totaled over $700 million

Scientific American has even graver estimates:

  • As many as 210,000 patients die each year from medical malpractice in the US
  • Medical errors were the third-leading cause of death in America as of 2013

Is Medical Malpractice Serious?

Very much so. Medical malpractice has the potential to further injure or even kill victims that may otherwise have survived or recovered if they received care from more careful and appropriate professionals.

What Damages Can Be Awarded in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

Because medical malpractice victims can suffer serious and lifelong injuries or conditions, and their medical bills are often very high, damages similarly can be immense. Compensation can be awarded for things like:

  • Costs for past and future medical bills
  • Damages for pain and suffering on the part of the victim
  • Damages for loss of income or loss of quality of life
  • Damages for loss of companionship if the victim was killed

Contact New York Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today

Anyone involved in a medical malpractice situation should immediately contact knowledgeable New York attorneys to research potential options. 

Sobo & Sobo, with over 50 years of experience winning all types of medical malpractice cases across the Hudson Valley and New York City, is the team best suited for determining whether a case counts as medical malpractice and if the case is winnable in court. Contact them today for a free consultation.