When a Doctor Apologizes is that Proof of Medical Malpractice in Pennsylvania?
It is a proven fact that when someone apologizes for a mistake, the person he injured is much less likely to sue. When doctors apologize, the risk of suit decreases. The reason for this is simple. Frequently, if someone is hurt, especially if the injuries are minor, an apology is really all he wants. Hiding mistakes, refusing to own up to them, closing the ranks to protect the doctor or staff member who messed up, all of these things tend to make patients angrier and more likely to sue. In addition, even if a lawsuit is filed, sometimes genuine remorse on the part of the doctor might make the patient willing to settle more quickly. This is because the patient and his family are often less angry when offered an honest apology. On the other hand, doctors are often afraid to apologize, they are concerned that an apology is an admission of a mistake, which in turn, provides evidence of malpractice and creates a greater risk of a high medical malpractice verdict against them.
Laws Allow for Apologies
Due to the fact that apologies tend to decrease medical malpractice suits as well as lead to a potentially faster settlement if a suit is filed, many states have passed laws preventing the use of apologies as evidence in lawsuits. Pennsylvania is one such jurisdiction. If your doctor apologizes to you, you should mention this to your attorney, but you should also understand that the apology may not be usable against the doctor. It is best to view such apologies as they are intended if the doctor seems genuinely remorseful for your pain. But, an apology does not mean that you should not sue when you have suffered serious injuries with painful ramifications for your life or the well-being of your family. After all, an apology does not take away the difficulties in your life due to the negligence the doctor, hospital or medical staff committed while you were in their care.
Pennsylvania Benevolent Gesture Law
In late 2013, the Governor of Pennsylvania signed the Benevolent Gesture Medical Professional Liability Act into law. This law prevents “most physician apologies from being used against them in a medical liability lawsuit.” According to the law, an apology is, “[a]ny action, conduct, statement or gesture that conveys a sense of apology, condolence, explanation, compassion or commiseration emanating from humane impulses.” However, it is important to note the word most.
Can Your Doctor’s Apology Ever Be Used in Court?
There are times when an apology may still be admissible in court. Only your attorney can decide when it is appropriate to seek to use such an admission. For example, if the doctor makes a statement about a specific medical error, that is not likely to be protected. The same is true if the doctor makes an excited utterance, essentially an outburst of some kind, acknowledging his errors. Regardless of the apology, if you believe you have a claim against your doctor because he caused you serious harm, contact Lowenthal & Abrams. We are here to help you deal with the financial and emotional suffering you experienced as a result of your injuries.