Can I Sue for Medical Malpractice Related to COVID-19?

Laws, Medical Malpractice Mistakes, Medication Errors

Filing a successful suit for a healthcare professional’s negligence is hard enough under normal circumstances, but the Coronavirus pandemic has complicated medical malpractice cases in our area even more. Multiple actions by the governor and state legislature have enshrined additional protections from civil liability for doctors and nurses across New York, most of which will last for the duration of the current emergency.

First, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on March 23, 2020 that granted legal immunity to physicians, physician and specialist assistants, nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses, and licensed registered professional nurses for any negligent act or omission they commit while providing medical services in support of the State’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Then, on April 3, the state budget for the 2021 fiscal year included the Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act, which codified the prior executive order’s protections into law.

The Coronavirus pandemic has forced the state of New York to reconsider its standard of medical care applicable to doctors during an unprecedented viral crisis. The aforementioned changes were meant to save as many lives as possible while also protecting healthcare providers from incurring civil liability for harm they could not reasonably prevent. These changes use the logic of “Good Samaritan” laws, which provide immunity to medical professionals who stop to render aid to accident victims.

However, these now-permanent modifications to state law mean that doctors and nurses may be totally absolved of liability for any negligent response to the COVID-19 outbreak, leaving injured plaintiffs with no means of recourse for their losses. For example, if a physician delays a diagnosis of a non-COVID-19 condition because their facility is understaffed and inundated with Coronavirus patients, a person who is harmed as a result of that delayed diagnosis may not be able to recover compensation.

Even though this type of action would be valid grounds for a lawsuit under different circumstances, the only way that patient could recover compensation is if the doctor was grossly negligent or willfully harmful in causing their injuries or illness.

While the original Executive Order issued by the governor only granted immunity to specific types of healthcare providers, the Emergency or Disaster Treatment Protection Act grants immunity to any medical facility or healthcare provider who causes harm to patients because of some condition or situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also extends immunity to volunteers and volunteer organizations helping licensed medical professionals during the ongoing crisis.

Since these laws are relatively new, there may still be room for them to be interpreted a few different ways by skilled medical malpractice attorneys. If you believe you suffered undue harm because of the wanton negligence of a medical care provider during the Coronavirus, our team of dedicated lawyers could help you effectively pursue a positive case outcome.