What You Can Do When Even World-Renowned Hospitals Make Them
With more than 150 medical facilities located in or around the Bronx borough area, residents have many options when it is time to seek medical treatment. However, at any one of those facilities, you may encounter a risk of a medical provider making an error that results in injury, illness, or even death. New York City is well known for its medical malpractice claims.
A decade ago, plaintiffs filed more than 600 claims in one year against the city for errors committed in city-owned hospitals. While the rate of claims has slowly declined in the past ten years, the city continues to pay out millions of dollars every year, including payments on claims that plaintiffs filed before 2011. Last year, plaintiffs filed 392 medical malpractice claims against the city. This amounted to settlements and judgments in medical malpractice cases of more than $65 million.
If you were injured or have lost a loved one because of a medical error, a Bronx medical malpractice attorney can help you file a medical malpractice lawsuit. These are often extraordinarily complex cases requiring a high level of knowledge and experience with both the legal process and proving that the error rose to the level of malpractice.
How Often Do Medical Errors Occur?
Perhaps it seems like medical malpractice is mostly something that TV doctor or legal dramas discuss. However, before COVID-19, medical errors were the third leading cause of death in the U.S., resulting in about 250,000 deaths each year. Medical errors can occur in any type of clinical setting, including hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, medical or dental offices, nursing homes, pharmacies, or even in the patient’s home as a result of an error made by a home health care worker.
To tackle how often medical errors occur, researchers have attempted to discover why they occur. In doing so, they found eight root causes of medical errors.
Those causes include:
- Poor written or verbal communication between medical staff.
- Inadequate information flow, including delayed results to diagnostic tests, lack of information about those results communicated to the professional in charge of determining the best course of treatment, and lack of readily available patient history information necessary to ensure that treatment errors are not made.
- Staffing issues such as understaffing that result in a medical facility’s policies and procedures not being followed.
- Failure to properly identify and assess the patient or to obtain consent for recommended procedures.
- Organizational issues, such as a failure to adequately train medical staff for their positions.
- Staffing patterns and workflow. While understaffing does not automatically result in medical errors, it places remaining staff in the position of having too many responsibilities to handle at once and increases the risk of a mistake being made.
- Technical failures involving devices, implants, grafts, or medical equipment.
- Incomplete or non-existent policies and procedures that would have prevented the mistake from occurring.
Common Types of Medical Errors
Doctors and other medical providers can make thousands of medical errors, though not all of the errors in Bronx medical facilities or other medical facilities result in medical malpractice claims. To rise to the level of malpractice, the claimant must show that the error not only occurred, but that it violated the standard of care that a reasonable medical professional would have provided in similar circumstances and resulted in an injury or illness that otherwise would not have occurred. Some of the most common medical errors to result in a medical malpractice claim are listed below.
Misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis are among the most common types of medical errors. Misdiagnosis occurs when the physician diagnoses the patient with a different ailment than what he or she actually has. The danger in misdiagnosis is that it can result in the patient not only receiving unnecessary treatment for a condition he or she does not have, but the patient is also not receiving the treatment he or she needs for the true condition.
Missed diagnosis occurs when the doctor fails to recognize the symptoms or accurately interpret lab results to diagnose a condition. While the true number of diagnosis errors is impossible to determine, experts estimate that about 5 percent of outpatients experience a diagnosis error during treatment.
Birth injuries are injuries that occur to the infant during the birthing process. It is not unusual for an infant to suffer mild injuries during birth. However, in some cases, the injuries are more serious, including broken bones, nerve damage, or even brain injuries. Not all birth injuries are considered medical malpractice or even a medical error.
Some common medical errors that can lead to birth injuries include:
- Failing to properly analyze sonogram imaging and to use the information gleaned from the sonogram to act on issues affecting the fetus’ health and safety.
- Failing to perform a timely C-section when indicated.
- Failing to provide adequate follow-up care.
As noted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a medication error is “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the healthcare professional, patient, or consumer.”
Common medication errors include:
- Giving the patient medication that someone else should have received.
- Giving the patient medication that looked like the medication that doctors prescribed, or that had a name similar to the prescribed medication.
- Giving the patient the wrong dose of medication.
Surgical errors can include:
- Wrong-site surgery, or wrong patient surgery.
- Surgery that is not medically indicated.
- Errors when administering anesthesia.
- Leaving a surgical instrument such as a sponge or towel in the patient’s body.
Lack of Follow Up/Premature Discharge
Health care providers must monitor the treatments they provide for their patients and ensure that the patient heals well. They also must provide home-care instructions after medical procedures so that the patient can avoid complications such as infection and can help ensure that their activities are promoting healing. Failing to monitor the treatment, provide follow-up instructions, or help ensure that the patient is ready to be discharged from the hospital can lead to many hazards.
Failure to Obtain Informed Consent
Medical providers must explain the known side effects and risks of a procedure to the patient before the patient consents to the procedure. Failure to disclose the known risks can result in medical malpractice if the patient can prove that the risks are so extreme that he or she would likely have not agreed to the procedure if doctors communicated those risks.
Seeking Compensation for Medical Errors
If you were injured by a medical error when a Bronx healthcare provider failed to uphold the standard of care, you could seek compensation for the expenses and impacts of the damage.
New York allows the recovery of both economic and non-economic damages. The term “recovering damages” in the legal arena means obtaining compensation. Economic damages refer to compensation for the expenses of your injury. Non-economic damages refer to compensation for the quality-of-life impacts you incurred as a result of your injury.
Some of the common expenses and impacts that appear in Bronx medical malpractice lawsuits include:
- Medical expenses incurred during the treatment of the injury caused by the error.
- Lost wages if the injury prevented you from working.
- Loss of future earning capacity if the injury results in permanent deficits and you can no longer earn what you did before the injury.
- Physical pain and suffering from the medical error.
- Emotional distress.
- Loss of the enjoyment of life, if the error prevents you from participating in activities and events you previously enjoyed.
There are no limits on medical malpractice claims in New York.
To prove liability (legal responsibility), you must show:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed between the defendant and the claimant.
- The provider failed to uphold the standard of care, meaning he or she did not respond in the way a reasonable provider would have responded in similar circumstances.
- The failure to uphold the standard of care resulted in an injury that the patient otherwise would not have incurred.
The Deadline for Filing Your Medical Malpractice Claim
In New York, plaintiffs must file most medical malpractice cases within two years and six months of when the injury occurred. When the injury occurred as part of ongoing treatment, the clock does not start running until the treatment ends. In some cases involving a surgical instrument left in the body cavity or a failure to diagnose cancer, the statutory deadline can extend to account for the time it took for the claimant to discover the injury.
New York requires plaintiffs to submit a Certificate of Merit along with the lawsuit or within 90 days of submitting the lawsuit in cases where the statute of limitations is about to expire.
The Certificate of Merit shows the court:
- The lawyer has reviewed the facts of the case and has consulted with at least one licensed physician whose input leads the lawyer to believe that there is a reasonable basis for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit; or
- The lawyer has made three good-faith attempts to consult a licensed physician about the case but cannot comply with the requirement.
How a Bronx Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help With Your Claim
While all legal cases are complex for most who have not spent years obtaining education and training in the law, medical malpractice claims are particularly complicated. An experienced Bronx medical malpractice attorney can ensure your right to seek compensation for the harm you experienced at the hands of a medical provider. Contact a Bronx medical malpractice attorney today to learn more about your legal options.