When determining the applicable standard of care in a medical malpractice case, there is a concept followed in New York known as the “locality rule.” This rule places an importance on taking into account the standards of care within the geographic community (locality), in which the defendant physician or hospital is providing treatment. Basically, a healthcare provider or hospital is judged by the standard of care in their same or a similar community.
The geographic emphasis of the locality rule narrows down the qualifications of who a plaintiff can use as an expert witness, to testify in a medical malpractice case on their behalf. Since the rule bases the standard of care on location, the claimant will have to prove their specific community’s standard of care and how it was deviated from. The only way to complete this task is with the testimony of an expert from the same local area or another area very similar in characteristics to the location where the claimed negligent treatment occurred. The locality rule is meant to protect rural physicians, who may not have the medical facilities, training, or exercise the same level of judgment and diligence as an urban practitioner. In some cases, this regulation makes it difficult for an injured patient to find an expert to support their case.
Many believe the locality rule to be out-dated and numerous states have disregarded the requirement. Historically, access to education, equipment, and facilities greatly varied throughout the country for healthcare professionals. However, advances in travel, communication, publication, along with the digital age, have minimized the differences between rural and urban physicians. As a result, the standards of care are affected by information being easily obtained and available to all physicians.
Additionally, the locality rule allows the level of care to differ from one area to another, as well as the ability for practice standards to be set by physicians who provide sub-standard care.
Lastly, the limitations New York imposes on expert witnesses by way of the locality rule can restrict a victim’s right to pursue compensation. Prior to filing a medical malpractice claim, an expert must agree to review and verify that the lawsuit has merit. Furthermore, the testimony given by an expert witness is invaluable to proving a claim of medical negligence. It is the expert that will be able to establish that the plaintiff’s injuries would not have otherwise been suffered, had the defendant adhered to the applicable standard of care.
Medical malpractice victims typically only have two and a half years or less to file a claim. Have your case reviewed for free by a highly knowledgeable New York lawyer. Our team at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo, P.C. has extensive experience successfully representing clients in medical malpractice claims. Call (212) 732-9000 and speak to an attorney today.