Finding out that your doctor or medical provider made a mistake or error that caused you harm can be devastating. You trust your healthcare providers and expect them to provide adequate care. Whether you are seeking medical treatment for a specific condition or are going in for an annual physical, you deserve competent, skilled treatment from your healthcare team.

Examples of medical malpractice and negligence include:

In some cases, the conduct of the medical provider may be defined as medical negligence. In other cases, the conduct may rise to the level of medical malpractice. In either case, you have the legal right to seek compensation for your injuries and damages. 

Medical Negligence vs. Medical Malpractice

These terms are related. However, intent is the key difference between medical negligence and medical malpractice. 

Negligence is the failure to exercise the same level of care that a reasonable person would have used in the same or similar circumstances. Here, the failure to exercise reasonable care results in injury or harm to another person. Medical negligence covers errors and mistakes that a healthcare provider makes without intending to harm the patient. 

For example, say a doctor prescribes the wrong medication to a patient. He did not intend to hurt the patient. However, his error could harm the patient or result in a wrongful death. 

On the other hand, medical malpractice involves an intentional act by the medical provider that breaches the acceptable standard of care for a specific situation. For example, a doctor intentionally chooses not to order diagnostic tests, even though the patient’s symptoms clearly indicate a specific condition that can be confirmed through a test.

Another example of medical malpractice would be practicing while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Failing to monitor a patient after surgery is another example of medical malpractice. The doctor knew the patient had a risk of developing complications, but the doctor intentionally chose not to monitor the patient. 

Proving That a Doctor Committed Medical Malpractice

Not every medical mistake or example of medical negligence rises to the level of medical malpractice. A patient must prove each of the legal elements of a malpractice claim to hold the doctor liable for damages. 

The legal elements of a medical malpractice case are:

  • The doctor owed the patient a duty of care
  • The doctor breached the duty of care
  • The harm or injury was a direct and proximate result of the breach of the duty of care
  • The patient sustained damages because of the harm, injury, and breach of duty

If a patient is not harmed or does not sustain damages, the doctor did not commit medical malpractice. The doctor might have been negligent or intentionally breached the duty of care. However, without harm and damages, the incident does not rise to the level of medical malpractice.

The Consequences of Medical Malpractice

When a doctor commits malpractice, the patient could suffer irreversible harm. A patient could develop a life-threatening infection or sustain brain damage. Malpractice could lead to organ failure or permanent disabilities.

The doctor can be financially liable for damages if the evidence supports a finding of medical malpractice. 

Damages that might be included in a medical malpractice claim are:

  • The cost of diagnosing and treating the complications, harm, or injuries caused by malpractice
  • The cost of ongoing personal care and medical treatment for permanent impairments or injuries
  • The loss of income, benefits, and future earning potential 
  • Pain and suffering damages, including mental trauma, emotional distress, and physical discomfort
  • Permanent impairments, scarring, disfigurement, and disabilities
  • Psychological injuries, including depression and PTSD
  • Loss of enjoyment of life and decreased quality of life

Determining the value of a medical malpractice claim can be difficult. Medical experts are often required to prove the breach of care and determine the extent of the damages. A financial expert may be hired to calculate the value of future damages.

The New York statute of limitations sets a deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. The deadline is different from other personal injury claims. In most cases, the deadline to file a medical malpractice claim is two years and six months from the date of the malpractice or the end of the last continuous treatment rendered by the doctor you are suing.

However, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations. Talking with a lawyer as soon as you suspect your doctor made an error or committed malpractice is in your best interest. You do not want to let the doctor get away with malpractice because of a missed deadline.