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Comparative Negligence in Medical Malpractice Cases

Syracuse Lawyers Assisting Patients Harmed by Physician Errors

While you may trust your doctor to have your best interests at heart, doctors do make errors that can cause serious harm to their patients. To defend themselves, doctors and hospitals may scrutinize a patient’s behavior to determine whether the patient was partially or fully at fault for the harm allegedly caused by medical malpractice. If you are concerned about comparative negligence in medical malpractice cases, you should call the Syracuse medical malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano.

Medical Malpractice

It can be challenging to determine fault in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Not every mistake made by a doctor rises to the level of medical malpractice. In order to establish a doctor’s fault, you will need to show: (1) the doctor owes you a professional duty of care, (2) departure from the professional duty of care, (3) causation, and (4) damages. Usually it’s necessary to secure expert opinions about what the professional duty of care was, how a provider breached it, and causation. In New York, the professional standard of care refers to the standard of care that competent doctors in the same specialty and same geographic region would have used in a similar situation. The healthcare provider’s actions must have caused or contributed to the harm; if the harm would have occurred regardless of what the healthcare provider did, it won’t be possible to recover damages.

Comparative Negligence in Medical Malpractice Cases

New York follows the doctrine of pure comparative negligence. When comparative negligence is raised, the jury must evaluate both sides’ evidence and arguments, calculate damages, and apportion percentages of fault to both you and the defendant. Your damages in a medical malpractice case will be reduced by an amount equal to your percentage of fault. For example, if the damages are $200,000, and you were found to be 25% at fault while the doctor was 75% at fault, you’d only be able to recover $150,000 from the defendant. You can recover even if you’re 99% responsible for your own injury.

There are many different ways in which a patient could contribute to harm that arises in a medical context. You may be partially or fully to blame for harm if you don’t provide truthful answers about your medical history and as a result a doctor misdiagnoses you with the incorrect illness. For instance, if you are embarrassed about having had a pelvic mesh implant years before and lie to your doctor about the implantation, and taking you at your word, your doctor doesn’t conduct any imaging tests and misdiagnoses your severe pelvic pain, your injuries caused by the mesh may be worsened. Both you and the doctor may share blame for those injuries.

A patient could also be partially to blame for his or her injuries where there is a failure to disclose all medications. Suppose, for example, you go to the emergency room with symptoms and you’re asked about your medications, but you don’t disclose one of your medications and as a result the ER doctor administers a medication that interacts negatively with the undisclosed medication. A harm that resulted from the interaction might be partially or even fully your fault. A lawyer can evaluate the circumstances of your injuries and determine whether comparative negligence in medical malpractice cases will affect your damages.

Similarly, you’re expected to follow the doctor’s recommendations for treatment and recovery. A patient’s actions in the aftermath of a surgery can result in harm. Your failure to follow your doctor’s recommendations could cause an injury or aggravate an injury initially inflicted by your doctor. For example, if you are supposed to avoid lifting anything greater than 5 pounds while recovering from spine surgery and you fail to follow your doctor’s orders and help your friends move houses and this contributes to the harm caused by a spinal fluid leak, you may be comparatively negligent and held partially responsible for your own damages.

Consult a Seasoned Medical Malpractice Attorney in Syracuse

If you were harmed due to an error by your healthcare provider, you should schedule a consultation with the lawyers at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano. We represent patients and their families in Syracuse, Rochester, and other places in Upstate New York, including in Cooperstown, Auburn, Oneida, Canandaigua, Binghamton, Lyons, Wampsville, Oswego, Watertown, Utica, Elmira, Lowville, Herkimer, and Ithaca. Please contact DeFrancisco & Falgiatano at 315-479-9000 or complete our online form.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
"We were very impressed with how Jeff DeFrancisco represented us at trial and we were extremely happy when the jury found in our favor." D.M., Auburn, NY
★★★★★
"I cannot express in words what an awesome job Charlie Falgiatano and Jean Marie Westlake did in representing my family in my mother's case at trial. There can never be enough thank-yous." D.L., Cortland, NY
★★★★★
"I suffered a serious injury as a result of medical malpractice. My husband and I retained Jeff DeFrancisco to assist us in this case. We were extremely happy with his representation and highly recommend him." Kelley R., Syracuse, NY
★★★★★
Since the insurance company was unwilling to settle the matter my case ultimately went to trial. At trial Jeff DeFrancisco did an absolutely amazing job by obtaining a very favorable result for me." T.H., Oneida, NY
★★★★★
"I highly recommend DeFrancisco & Falgiatano - Charlie represented me for a medical malpractice case. He is the best of the best. He is friendly and I am very happy with the representation he provided." Roger N., Oneida, NY