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Can a doctor’s apology be used in a malpractice claim?

On Behalf of | Feb 6, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

Those in the medical profession have learned that when doctors apologize or at least express some degree of sympathy when things go wrong for a patient, it’s generally appreciated. Sometimes, particularly if the harm can be remedied and there’s no lasting damage, a sincere apology can even prevent people from filing a malpractice claim. That’s why a number of states have enacted some form of an “apology law.” 

Some state laws prevent expressions of sympathy and regret by a doctor from being used as evidence against them in malpractice suits. However, an apology that contains an admission of negligence or fault still can be used. Other states have more comprehensive apology laws that protect any admission of fault that a doctor makes as part of an apology from being used against them.

What about New York?

New York, however, is one of the states that currently has no apology law. That means anything a doctor (or another medical provider) says by way of an apology can be used as evidence. 

It also means you’re likely not going to see a doctor apologize for failing to read lab results correctly or nicking an artery during surgery. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t other evidence to be found. 

Further, a doctor simply expressing that they’re sorry a condition wasn’t found sooner isn’t necessarily an admission that they were negligent. Medicine isn’t always an exact science. That’s one reason why malpractice cases aren’t more common.

Listening carefully can help a potential case

It’s always important to listen to everything your doctors and others who are involved in your treatment or that of a loved one have to say. Take notes, have them repeat things they said quickly and ask them to define words you don’t understand. Don’t be intimidated if that makes them angry or impatient. You have a right to this information. 

If you believe you have cause for a malpractice suit, it’s wise to seek legal guidance as soon as possible. The sooner that the matter can be investigated and evidence can be collected, the less likely it is that it will be lost or forgotten, and the better your chances will be of having a successful claim.


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