The coronavirus pandemic has affected nearly everyone in the United States, including those receiving treatment in hospitals and nursing homes. COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease. For elderly patients or those with pre-existing conditions, COVID-19 can be deadly. Many hospitals and doctors’ offices have been overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, especially in big cities with large populations. Many patients wonder whether they can bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against doctors for negligence related to their coronavirus treatment.
Doctors Must Comply With the Standard of Care
When it comes to bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that their doctor failed to provide a reasonable standard of care under the circumstances. Would a reasonably prudent doctor have done what your doctor did or did not do under the same or similar circumstances?
Determining what a reasonably prudent doctor would do under the circumstances will be incredibly challenging. One problem with bringing medical malpractice lawsuits related to COVID-19 is that the world has not seen a pandemic this deadly since the 1918 Spanish Flu. When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, doctors did not know how contagious the virus was or the best treatment options.
Even today, doctors are still scrambling to try to ascertain the standard of care for coronavirus patients. Initially, many doctors were putting severely affected patients on respirators for long periods. Now, doctors have begun holding back on using respirators and using other types of treatments instead, when possible.
Proving Medical Malpractice in COVID Cases
Whether or not your doctor breached the standard of care depends on the specific facts in your case. If your doctor used medication that other doctors commonly used at that point of the coronavirus pandemic, it might be hard to prove that they acted negligently. However, if your doctor made negligent errors that are not related to the coronavirus specifically, you may have a valid medical malpractice claim.
Suppose you were seeking treatment for a broken ankle in an emergency room, and your doctor came in without any protective equipment on. While he is examining your ankle, you find out that he has just come from the COVID-19 of the hospital. He mentioned that he needs a new mask, but cannot find any, so he will just treat you without one. Three days after your visit to the hospital, you realize that you have COVID-19 symptoms.
You are one of the few patients that have not been able to bounce back quickly from COVID-19. Instead, you have missed two weeks of work and have been in agonizing pain as you try to keep your blood oxygen levels at 98% or higher. In this situation, you may be able to show that your doctor caused your injuries by negligently walking into your room without any protective equipment on after having treated patients with COVID-19. If successful, you could recover damages for your medical bills, lost work time, permanent damage to your lungs, and pain and suffer through a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Some States Have Given Doctors Immunity
Your ability to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit related to COVID-19 also depends on the laws in your state. Several different states have enacted laws that give health care professionals immunity from medical malpractice lawsuits that may arise in the area of COVID-19 treatment. Some of these laws state that patients cannot sue their doctors for simple negligence, making a careless error or mistake while treating COVID-19 patients.
The policy goal behind these laws is to protect doctors who are overworked and treating many more patients than they usually treat. They are designed to encourage doctors to keep working on the front lines of COVID-19 without worrying about frivolous lawsuits. Unfortunately, some doctors continue to make simple errors while treating coronavirus patients. In other cases, the laws are narrowly written, offering broader protection to patients. Some states have created laws that only allow doctors to have immunity from medical malpractice lawsuits, but only when doctors do not have enough PPE equipment or ICU beds to treat their patients safely.
Losing Your Right to Bring a Lawsuit by Signing a Liability Waiver
COVID-19 liability waivers are becoming more prevalent in hospitals, doctors’ offices, dental offices, and even non-medical offices. Health care providers are business owners who will make people who come into their building sign a waiver that says they are assuming the risk of Contracting COVID-19 by attending the function. If you have signed one of these documents, you may be wondering whether you have lost your right to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit. The answer is, it depends.
These disclaimers do provide people with informed consent, and they will allow doctors to prove that they discuss the risks involved with their patients. However, a patient’s signature on one of these waivers is not a free pass for doctors to act negligently or recklessly. Courts will still look to determine whether the doctor met the standard of care when treating the patient.
For example, a doctor cannot fail to use PPE equipment around a patient who has symptoms of COVID-19, In fact, another patient, and then claimed that he or she is not liable for the patient’s injuries because they signed a waiver. In this case, the court would likely still hold the doctor liable for the patient’s contraction of COVID-19. A reasonable doctor under the circumstances would have worn PPE equipment when treating the second patient.
Contact Our Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today
If you have become infected with COVID-19, and your doctor has acted negligently, you may have a right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Contact the experienced New York personal injury lawyers at Stanley Law Offices today to schedule your initial consultation.