If you or a loved one has been harmed by a doctor’s mistake or negligence, you likely expect them to offer some kind of apology. If you’re in New York, that may not happen – even if they’re obviously at fault.
That’s because New York is one of a minority of states that doesn’t have what’s known as an “apology law.” These laws vary by state. However, the idea behind them is that when doctors can feel free to apologize (which is often a natural response), it can assuage some of the anger felt by patients and their families. It has also been shown to reduce medical malpractice actions – provided that it’s handled properly and accompanied by an explanation of what happened.
The scope of apology laws varies
Apology laws typically state that a medical provider’s apology or other expressions of sympathy or compassion can’t be used against them in legal actions. Some states still allow any admission of fault made during an apology to be used. (“I’m sorry that I went through with your surgery even though I’d been drinking all night.”) However, a more generic apology (“I’m sorry that you’re in more pain since the surgery.”) would be inadmissible.
Some states have broader apology laws that protect what a provider says as part of an apology from being used against them. Of course, patients can still get evidence of negligence or wrongdoing from other sources beyond what a doctor said directly to them.
Pay attention to everything your medical providers say
As noted, New York doesn’t have an apology law. That means any apology made by a provider may be used against them. Of course, if there’s no evidence of negligence or error on their part and they simply said they were sorry that things didn’t turn out better, that’s not enough for a malpractice action.
Depending on the type of error and how much harm was caused, no apology can make it right. A malpractice suit can provide justice and compensation and possibly save others from similar harm. It’s important to keep track of everything medical providers say to you after a potential incident of malpractice and provide that information to your legal team.