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What is Malpractice?

Written July 6, 2016

According to a study published in The BMJ, medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States, with 250,000 annual fatalities, or nearly 700 each day. Wrongful death claims are more common than strokes, respiratory disease, and accidents. It trails only heart disease and cancer, causing countless damages and injuries. Another report in The Journal of Patient Safety puts the medical malpractice death number at 440,000. Either way, it’s far too many treatment errors and risks taken for something that should happen rarely if at all.

Medical malpractice, medical error, or medical negligence. No matter what you call it, it’s a far too frequent occurrence, and it can have tragic consequences such as wrongful death. Serious and long-lasting or permanent injury, chronic pain, suffering, and even death from misdiagnosis.

Medical malpractice can occur at any stage of your interaction with a doctor, medical professional, hospital, nursing staff or healthcare practitioner. It can happen during diagnosis, patient transfer, surgery, treatment, after care, or health management. At its most basic, malpractice is the failure of a healthcare professional, such as a doctor with malpractice insurance, to provide proper service through either ignorance, negligence, or criminal intent. It can include a wide range of scenarios: wrongful death, birth injuries, heart attack misdiagnosis, surgical errors, misdiagnosis, failure to consider allergies, prescription errors, and other damages and injuries. So-called “never events” include surgery on the wrong person, surgery on the wrong body part, and leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient.

Medical malpractice is essentially a mistake or negligence of some sort on the part of a doctor or other healthcare practitioner. While certainly not the norm – the vast majority of doctors and other healthcare professionals are competent and able individuals – medical malpractice in the United States does happen to patients more than we like to admit.

There was $3,891,743,050 in medical malpractice payouts in 2014. Nearly four billion dollars. New York State paid out $713,890,000 – just over $36 per capita – both of which were the highest in the country. The malpractice lawsuits that year primarily involved mistakes in diagnosis (33%), surgery (24%), treatment (19%), or obstetrics (11%). Sadly, a full 30% had death as the outcome of the error. (Source: National Practitioner Data Bank).

In order to bring a successful medical malpractice suit, there are essentially three criteria that must be met:

  1. Proof that the doctor or healthcare practitioner deviated from the “standard of care”, or what any reasonably competent medical professional would or would not have done in the same situation or surgery.
  2. Evidence of injury, damages, or wrongful death as a result of this violation.
  3. The injury from treatment leads to significant damage in quality of life, earning potential, suffering, hardship (both present and/or future), or pain.

In most cases, patients have a statute of limitations of two years and six months to file a malpractice suit in the state of New York.

A monetary award from a malpractice lawsuit from misdiagnosis or or negligent doctors may be either compensatory damages – death, missed wages, hospital bills, future treatments, pain, personal injury and suffering – and/or punitive damages – designed to punish the guilty party in especially egregious cases.

No one should have to suffer as a result of misdiagnosis, medical malpractice and negligence. These instances can and should be eliminated. When it does happen, you deserve and are entitled to financial compensation.

The malpractice attorneys, legal staff, and lawyers at Duffy & Duffy, PLLC are experienced, sympathetic, and ready to fight on your behalf. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a medical error, misdiagnosis, etc. contact us today. Speak with our trusted legal advisors to see if you have a case. Medical malpractice lawsuits can’t right the wrong, but it can help you deal with the consequences.

  1. The BMJ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27143499/
  2. (Source: National Practitioner Data Bank) https://www.npdb.hrsa.gov

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