Can Seeking an Apology From a Medical Professional Impact Your Malpractice Claim?

Law Blog

If you or a loved one has recently been made ill or suffered complications following a routine medical procedure, you may be wondering whether a malpractice lawsuit is the best way to secure compensation for the needless pain and suffering you've experienced. You might have also heard about the protections some states have extended to medical professionals who offer an apology after a procedure gone wrong, preventing such apologies from being used as admissions of guilt in a subsequent malpractice proceeding; but what can this mean for your case? Read on to learn more about the protections "apology" laws can provide to healthcare professionals, as well as when such apologies could raise the question 

What is the Apology Rule? 

Prior to the advent of this rule, many physicians and medical professionals were reluctant to make any apologies to patients (or their loved ones) after a procedure went wrong, for fear that this apology could be used as evidence of culpability in a later malpractice case. Some lawmakers hypothesized this dearth of apologies actually led to higher malpractice rates, as patients who might have been satisfied by a sincere expression of sorrow instead sought their pound of flesh in court. 

In response, a number of states (32 at last count) passed "apology" laws that prevent injured patients or their family members from using a physician's apology as evidence in a later malpractice action. This means that even if the physician makes a statement like "I made a mistake while treating you and I'm very sorry for the results," this admission is insufficient to bring a malpractice claim to court. 

However, it's been argued that these apology laws haven't had any practical effect on the number of malpractice claims filed, and some even argue that states with apology laws may actually see a slightly higher malpractice rate than those that don't provide these same protections. 

How can a medical professional's apology impact your ability to file a medical malpractice claim? 

Although those who were injured in one of the 32 states with apology laws on the books may not be able to rely on a physician's apology (or lack thereof) as evidence of guilt in a malpractice claim, you're certainly not prevented from filing such a claim against a physician who has apologized -- and as long as you're able to proffer enough additional evidence to show that the physician was negligent or reckless, you shouldn't have a problem prevailing in court. 


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