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Physician Communication Errors

Syracuse Lawyers for Medical Malpractice Victims

Doctors need to communicate with other doctors, nurses, and staff members in a clear way in order to provide competent care. They also need to communicate properly with patients. Physician communication errors can sometimes have devastating consequences. These errors may occur when a doctor is sending a patient to see a specialist or another health care provider. If you were injured or a loved one died as a result of a physician communication error, a dedicated Syracuse medical malpractice attorney can review your potential legal claims.

Physician Communication Errors

A UCSF study found that improving the way physicians communicate might reduce patient injury by 30%. Physician communication errors can occur in many different contexts and situations. They can occur when lab results are lost or mailed to the wrong person. They can happen if a doctor gets lab results but doesn’t read them correctly and fails to communicate properly with the patient about follow-up steps. They can happen where a patient is not given the right diagnosis or where the treatment is not adequately explained. There can be a communication error involving a doctor’s failure to listen to the patient’s symptoms or history that results in a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis. There are errors that can result in a prescription for the wrong medication or an incorrect prescription contraindicated by other medication taken by the patient. Any of these situations could result in substantial harm to the patient.


Mistakes by doctors are not always medical malpractice. To show that a physician communication error constituted medical malpractice, you’ll need to establish by a preponderance of the evidence: (1) the patient was owed a professional duty of care, (2) breach of the professional duty of care, (3) causation, and (4) damages. The relevant questions would be whether the physician communication error was a breach of the professional duty of care and whether that physician communication error caused the harm at issue. A defendant doctor may argue that the patient’s condition would have worsened whether or not there was a communication error. If he is successful in this argument, you will not be able to recover damages. A seasoned medical malpractice lawyer can assist you in countering this kind of assertion.


If you can establish that a physician communication error constituted medical malpractice in your case, you may be able to recover damages for a variety of items. These include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, replacement services, rehabilitation costs, lost earning capacity, and any other costs arising from the malpractice.

Emergency Room Malpractice

Sometimes a patient comes to the ER and is harmed by a doctor’s communication error. For example, in the hectic environment of the ER, a physician might fail to adequately communicate with staff about monitoring a patient with a spinal cord injury sustained in a traumatic accident, and as a result the patient could be released too early or with misinformation about next steps. A physician communication error like that could result in permanent paralysis where the spinal cord injury, had it been adequately treated, might have resulted in only temporary harm. Usually, doctors are not employees of hospitals and so the hospital can’t be held liable for miscommunications made by an independent contractor doctor.

However, there is an exception for emergency room malpractice. You may be able to hold the hospital vicariously liable for emergency room malpractice under a theory of apparent authority. Under this doctrine, a patient comes to the ER for the provision of doctors and services by the hospital. The doctor is believed to represent the hospital in that situation, meaning that the hospital can be held liable for the ER doctor’s communication error.

Consult an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney in Syracuse

If you have suffered injuries or other harm due to a physician communication error in Syracuse, you can talk to a skillful trial lawyer about whether you have a viable medical malpractice lawsuit. DeFrancisco & Falgiatano represents patients and families harmed by medical malpractice in Syracuse, Rochester, and throughout Upstate New York, including in Ithaca, Canandaigua, Watertown, Lowville, Binghamton, Cooperstown, Oneida, Auburn, Oswego, Utica, Lyons, Herkimer, Elmira, and Wampsville. Please call us at 833-200-2000 or contact us via our online form.

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