Proving Fault in New York Medical Malpractice Claims

Staff Writer | June 27th, 2013

Proving Fault in New York Medical Malpractice ClaimsMedical malpractice liability in New York is usually established through the concept of negligence. In order for a claim of medical negligence to prevail, the plaintiff must prove, with a preponderance of evidence, that the following elements occurred:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care
  • The defendant breached that duty by deviating from an applicable standard of care
  • The defendant’s wrongful actions caused injury to the plaintiff
  • The plaintiff was actually injured

Duty of care

The easiest duty of care to establish is the duty a doctor owes to his or her patient. Other medical professionals may owe a duty of care to a patient if they are brought in to assist with a case or if they are in some way responsible for a patient’s treatment or care, like a nurse doing rounds or a radiologist brought in to consult on an x-ray.

Deviating from a standard of care

In order to prove this element, the plaintiff must bring in an expert witness, qualified in the same area as the defendant, to establish a standard of care by testifying as to what specific actions a medical professional would be expected to take and not to take in the circumstances in which the injury arose. The plaintiff must also present testimony proving that the defendant deviated from this standard of care.

Part of the standard of care of any medical field is “informed consent,” meaning that doctors must explain the risks, benefits, and alternatives of any medical treatment administered to a patient and get written consent before proceeding with treatment.

Proving causation

A plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s deviation from a standard of care was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury or injuries. This proof may involve a “but-for” test – in other words, the plaintiff must prove that “but for” the defendant’s misconduct, the injury would not have occurred. The plaintiff may also be required to prove that the defendant’s misconduct was the proximate cause of the injury.

Injury

A medical mistake is not sufficient to hold a medical professional liable for damages. An actual injury must have occurred as a result of the mistake or misconduct. If an incorrect diagnosis or misapplied treatment did not interfere with a patient’s recovery or cause the patient to get worse, the doctor generally cannot be held liable.

Statute of limitations

One complication in medical malpractice liability cases is the statute of limitations, which prevents plaintiffs from filing suit after a certain amount of time has passed since the alleged misconduct. In New York, the statute of limitations is 30 months from the time a medical professional’s misconduct occurs, or only 15 months in cases where the medical professional was employed by a municipal hospital or facility.

Medical malpractice liability advice

Proving fault in New York medical malpractice claims can be difficult and complicated, especially without the benefit of good legal advice. If you suspect that you have been injured by medical malpractice, including a misdiagnosis, surgical error, improperly prescribed drug, or any other form of negligence, a medical malpractice attorney can help you sort through the issues and find out who may be liable.

Attorneys with The Sanders Firm have years of experience handling medical malpractice claims and getting clients the compensation they deserve. Call today for a free consultation: 1-800-FAIR-PLAY.


  1. National Institutes of Health, Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research - An Introduction to Medical Malpractice in the United States, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2628513/