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Medical Malpractice and COVID-19: Understanding New York Law

New York is still slowly recovering from the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. While the virus certainly remains a threat in our region, the number of active cases has fallen sharply across the state since the height of New York’s outbreak in March and April. Of course, we are still dealing with the fallout.

In the early days of the outbreak, state legislators passed and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act (EDTPA) into law. The statute has many important implications, including for victims of COVID-19-related medical malpractice. Here, our Buffalo medical malpractice lawyers explain what you need to know about the law.

Edtpa: Additional Protections to Doctors/Health Providers Against Malpractice Claims

The overriding purpose of the Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act is relatively straightforward. As the COVID-19 pandemic put serious stress on New York’s medical system, the law is designed to relieve some of the pressure by freeing doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers from potential liability for medical malpractice claims.

Unfortunately, the law is not necessarily good news for patients. It makes it more difficult to hold a defendant liable for medical malpractice in a COVID-19 case. In most medical malpractice claims, a patient must prove that they suffered harm as a result of the defendant’s negligence. The EDTPA raises the legal bar for COVID-19-related care. In other words, proving negligence is not necessarily sufficient to prove malpractice if the patient was primarily receiving treatment for COVID-19. 

Liability Protections Are Limited: Willful Misconduct and Gross Negligence

It is important to understand that there are strict limits to the law. Under New York’s Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act, hospitals and health care providers are entitled to some additional liability protection when treating COVID-19 patients. However, physicians and medical providers are by no means granted complete liability. This is sometimes misreported in the media. Immunity under the New York statute does not cover medical malpractice or related injuries that occurred because of:

  • Intentional criminal wrongdoing;
  • Willful misconduct; or
  • Gross negligence. 

If a medical provider acted in an extremely reckless manner, their misconduct may be deemed willful or grossly negligent. Do not assume that you and your family are prevented from bringing a COVID-19 malpractice claim against a doctor or a medical provider in New York. The laws are complicated and there is still considerable uncertainty regarding the EDTPA. You owe it to yourself to set up a comprehensive initial consultation with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. 

Call Our Buffalo Medical Malpractice Attorneys for Immediate Help With Your Case

At Richmond Vona, LLC, our top-rated New York medical negligence lawyers are aggressive and results-focused advocates for patients and their family members. If you have questions or concerns about COVID-19 and medical malpractice, we are here to help. Contact our Buffalo office now for a free, no-commitment initial consultation. We represent medical malpractice victims throughout Western New York, including in Erie County, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wyoming County, and Niagara County.

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