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How a doctor saying sorry could lead to litigation

When a person says they are sorry, it oftentimes means that they are trying to be empathetic toward the person with whom they are conversing. The phrase shows that the person cares and wants to console the other person or make them feel at least a little better. But the phrase "I'm sorry" has another interpretation and it's one that could leave doctors and medical professionals facing litigation down the road.

As you may have already guessed, the phrase "I'm sorry" can also be interpreted as an admission of guilt or wrong doing. When it comes from a medical professional, such as a doctor or a nurse, a patient or a patient's family may wonder if they are apologizing out of sympathy or because they did something wrong. If it's the latter of the two, then the patient and their family may see this as an indication of negligence.

If a medical mistake occurs, patients and their families generally want to be compensated by the at-fault party. Whether it's the hospital's fault or because of a medical professional's negligence, the guilty party is held accountable for their actions through civil litigation. But did you know that in some states, victims of medical negligence can’t file a lawsuit simply because a doctor said they were sorry?

Sometimes referred to as apology laws, this type of legislation excludes statements of apology or regret from a health care provider for the purposes of a medical malpractice claim. Referred to a judiciary committee here in New York last year is a similar piece of legislation that could make it much more difficult for the average person in our state to recognize when negligence has occurred and when compensation is owed.

Of course it's worth pointing out that residents across the state still do have the right to talk to an attorney regarding their claim. Because of a lawyer's experience with the law, they are a good source of information and wonderful resources to tap into if a lawsuit needs to be filed down the road.

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