When doctors make mistakes, the results can be traumatic and may lead to serious injury or death. If an error occurs, medical malpractice claims can be filed against most licensed health care providers, including optometrists.
Optometrists and ophthalmologists practice in two different fields relating to eye care. The training of an optometrist is more limited, focusing on eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other means of improving visual acuity. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in eye disease, glaucoma, cataracts, and can perform eye surgery. Some ophthalmologists will sub-specialize in the various parts of the eye.
Even though their training is more limited and their role is narrower, optometrists have been used by patients as the first eye doctors they will see regularly. This may bring up a malpractice issue when an optometrist fails to detect an eye disease, or other condition, and delays sending a patient to an ophthalmologist.
When a patient’s vision cannot be corrected to 20/20 with lenses, this could be a sign that something is wrong. An optometrist who fails to investigate the cause of the loss of visual acuity may have committed medical malpractice. Optometrists can also fail to diagnose eye diseases, such as cataracts, glaucoma, or retinal disorders. Failures such as these can lead to delayed treatment, therapy that is more aggressive once the condition is discovered, and possibly even blindness.
Misdiagnosis in optometry malpractice may involve more than just general eye health. Other conditions, such as diabetes, nerve damage, and even some heart conditions can be detected by examining the health of the eye. If the optometrist detects something, they have a duty to refer the patient to their primary care physician or to a specialist so that their findings can be reported.
In New York, there are three main types of damages in medical malpractice claims. The first is compensatory damages. These damages compensate medical malpractice victims for their medical costs and lost wages. The second type of damages is non-economic damages. These damages compensate a patient for their pain and suffering. The last type of damages is punitive damages and is rarely awarded. These damages may be available if a healthcare provider has acted in a reckless manner.
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