Medical malpractice basics: New York

Medical malpractice lawsuits can help victims get the compensation they need to cover the cost of their injury.

We task doctors, nurses and other medical professionals with helping patients to get healthy. In many cases, these professionals rise to the task. In others, blatant errors result in additional injuries. When errors cause harm, a patient should explore the possibility of a medical malpractice claim.

What is a medical malpractice claim? Medical malpractice is an area of the law designed to make the victim whole after an injury. This area of the law is catered to those who are injured by the negligent or reckless actions of a medical professional. If successful, the case can result in monetary awards that cover the costs that result from the injury.

How do you build a successful case? A successful medical malpractice case often requires the use of expert testimony and evidence. These cases generally require the patient establish the medical professional responsible for the injury was negligent. This legal term essentially refers to the medical professional's failure to provide a level of care another professional would have provided in the same situation.

Establishing negligence generally requires expert testimony from another physician or medical professional that practices in the same field of medicine.

What are some obstacles? The difficulty lies in the complexity. The field of medicine is complex, reviewing medical records can be confusing. In addition to finding the evidence in these complicated records, the victim must also find a professional that can explain these complex terms in a way the court will understand. A failure to do so can result in a lost case.

The next hurdle involves showing the mistake caused the victim's injuries. This is particularly difficult for medical malpractice as the medical professional may argue other factors, like genetics or a poor diet, contributed to the injury. The victim must be prepared to counter this defensive strategy to better ensure a successful case.

It is also important to note that these cases are time barred. State law generally places a statute of limitations, or time limit, on the ability to file a medical malpractice case. In New York, victims generally have two years, six months from the medical event that caused the injury. There are exceptions to this time limit. For example, a misdiagnosis in cancer generally results in a two-year time limit from the time the misdiagnosis was discovered and those who are injured while a minor generally have ten years from the time of the malpractice event to file suit.