The northeastern states lead the country in the amount of payouts made to plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases and New York has the highest numbers. In 2017 the total payout in the state was over $617 million. This is huge compared to other states with high numbers like Pennsylvania at $342 million and New Jersey at $268 million.
This high amount of damages paid to plaintiffs is reflected in the lack of a cap on damages that victims can recover in medical malpractice lawsuits, as well as other laws in the state. Those laws can be complicated to understand and to navigate. Patients in the state need to rely on the expertise and specialization of New York medical malpractice lawyers to be sure that they can make successful cases, not just for compensation, but also for justice and to hold responsible parties accountable.
Lavern’s Law and the Statute of Limitations
All states have their own laws that guide and govern medical malpractice cases and each state sets a statute of limitations. This is the time limit put on the filing of lawsuits for medical negligence. The statute of limitations in New York is two and a half years from when the negligence occurred, or from when a course of treatment is finished.
In 2018 the governor of New York and the legislature agreed on the details of a new law regarding the statute of limitations in malpractice cases. Known as Lavern’s Law, the law came about after the tragic death of 41-year-old Lavern Wilkinson in 2013. She was admitted a city hospital in 2010 with complaining of chest pains. Doctors failed to notice a mass in her lung on a chest X-ray.
She had a treatable type of lung cancer, but because it wasn’t diagnosed initially it developed into an untreatable cancer that ended up killing her. More than two years later she returned to the hospital because of a chronic cough and was finally diagnosed, but the cancer had spread throughout her body by then. By the time Lavern discovered the mistake made in 2010 the statute of limitations on a medical malpractice suit had just expired. She died tragically without the ability to get justice.
Because of that case and others, the New York legislature put together a bill that the governor eventually signed. The law changed when the two-and-a-half-year limit begins for patients with cancer. For these patients the clock begins when the misdiagnosis or other error is discovered, not when it is made. This rule would have allowed Lavern to sue for justice for the grave mistake she suffered from before she died.
Other Medical Malpractice Laws in New York
Other laws that are important for patients in the state to understand include those regarding damages that can be recovered and an affidavit of merit that is required before a case can be filed. Damages refer to the compensation that victims of malpractice can recover in a settlement or trial. Most states cap at least non-economic damages, the award for things like pain and suffering, but New York does not. A medical malpractice lawyer can seek as much for a client as a jury is willing to grant.
The affidavit of merit is less friendly to victims of negligence. This is a requirement that the lawyer filing the lawsuit include a signed certificate that indicates he or she has consulted with a qualified medical expert. The lawyer must confirm that this expert agrees that there is a reasonable basis for the case and that it has merit. This step is supposed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits that go to trial, but for some patients it may prove a barrier that is too high to overcome in filing a case.
Medical Malpractice Cases in New York
Because there is no cap on damages in New York the state has some pretty significant awards in medical malpractice trials. Not all cases are successful for the plaintiff, but malpractice lawyers work hard on their behalf to win cases, for justice and to recover damages. There are several examples of these successful cases, some with staggering jury award amounts.
The second-largest amount awarded in a personal injury case in the state of New York was given to the family of a young child born with cerebral palsy in 2013. The case the family began went through three separate trials, including a win for the defendants, a mistrial, and a third appeal and trial that ended up with a jury award of $130 million to the family.
The defendants were staff at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson. The family’s lawyer made a case that a nurse should have noticed the baby was being deprived of oxygen and that doctors made other mistakes during delivery. As a result of oxygen deprivation the girl suffered brain damage and is permanently disabled, unable to speak or walk and needing round-the-clock care. The massive award was appealed and reduced to $11 million.
Another case that ended in a large award involved a child who was born deaf in Brooklyn in 2010. The mother of the girl conceived twins through in vitro fertilization. Her lawyer made the case that doctors failed to take not of signs of complications and the girls ended up being delivered prematurely. One of the girls suffered serious complications, including vocal cord paralysis and hearing loss. At the end of a month-long trial a jury awarded the family $26 million.
Working with a New York Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If you have been harmed, or a family member has, by medical errors, you could have a valid case for negligence. In New York you have a right to sue and seek damages, but you need a good lawyer by your side. Only a New York medical malpractice lawyer has the expertise and the experience to make sure your case goes smoothly and has the best chance of success.
As you choose a lawyer make sure you find one who only works on this highly specialized type of law. Find out what your lawyer’s exact experiences are and what the outcomes of previous cases were so that you can feel good about the choice you make. You may be working with this lawyer for several years, so choose someone you feel comfortable with and who you know will fight for your best interests.