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Does a doctor's apology indicate fault?

While it can be comforting to hear your doctor apologize and express remorse when a medical error causes you harm, the apology itself won't help you, financially, in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

That's because Pennsylvania is one of 36 states that has an "I'm sorry law" on the books that protects doctors when they make apologies for patients' negative experiences. In Pennsylvania and other states with such laws, when a doctor says he or she is sorry for the harm you've endured, he or she is not admitting fault, and the apology can't be used in court as an admission of guilt.

For some people, hearing "I'm sorry" from a doctor or hospital may be enough to prevent them from going forward with a lawsuit. Some even claim that when doctors are allowed to apologize without fear of litigation, patients are less likely to sue, which saves hospitals money. As the injured party, however, you have to look to your own costs and effects the injury will have on your life when determining whether to sue.

Most patients don't relish the thought of having to sue to recover costs incurred by medical negligence. But in some cases the injury is too great to be quelled by an apology alone. If you've been injured by a medical professional whose job it was to help you heal, you don't have to take an apology as the end of the story. While an apology may be the morally responsible thing for a doctor to do, and you may not want to be the "type" of person who sues, an apology won't pay your medical bills and other expenses. The best course of action may be to speak with a personal injury lawyer who can evaluate your situation and recommend a course of action that would best serve your interests.

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