Medical Malpractice

What do the terms negligence and medical malpractice really mean?

August 19, 2021

Negligence, as that term is used in New York law, refers to the failure to use that degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would have used under the same or similar circumstances.  A jury may, for instance, find a defendant negligent when the defendant performed an act that a reasonably prudent person would not have done under the same circumstances, or, on the other hand, when the defendant failed to do an act that a reasonably prudent person would have done under those circumstances and as a consequence, an injury resulted.

Generally, negligence requires both a reasonably foreseeable danger of injury to another and conduct that is unreasonable in proportion to that danger.  The exact occurrence or mechanism of injury or the exact injury does not have to be foreseeable; rather, some injury as a result of negligent conduct must have been reasonably foreseeable for a defendant to be found liable under New York law.  

A defendant may be found to be negligent if an injury is or should have been reasonably foreseeable and the defendant’s action or failure to act was a substantial factor in causing that injury.  On the other hand, a defendant will not be found to have been negligent if a reasonably prudent person could not have foreseen an injury as a result of the defendant’s conduct, or if the defendant acted reasonably in the light of what reasonably could have been foreseen.

Ordinary or garden variety negligence is often associated with cases arising from motor vehicle accidents, premises defects, sidewalk and crosswalk defects, and trip and fall or slip and fall accidents.

Malpractice refers to the negligence of a professional person in the course and scope of his or her professional practice, such as may apply to a physician, nurse, or other professional.

Medical malpractice refers to the negligence of a doctor and is found when the physician fails to use reasonable care under the circumstances in providing services to his patient, which a reasonably prudent doctor would have used or fails to do something that a reasonably prudent doctor would have done under the circumstances. 

The malpractice must have been a substantial (or proximate) cause of the patient’s injury for a medical malpractice case to be viable. For medical malpractice to be found, the doctor’s action or inaction needs to constitute a departure from good and accepted standards of medical care.  In that regard, the opinion testimony of medical experts is essential to establish whether there has been a deviation from good and accepted standards of medical care and practice.

The Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Firm handles both negligence and medical malpractice claims throughout New York. In the event that you have suffered a serious injury as a result of another’s negligence or malpractice, we encourage you to speak with an attorney at our firm to discuss your legal rights. Call 212-869-3500 or contact us online for a free consultation.