Many New Yorkers are afraid of undergoing a medical operation, partially because they are scared to give control of their body to various medical professionals, many of whom they’ve never met before. Of course, the majority of the time these doctors and nurses are well-trained and competent in their professions. But even those who are experienced and skilled in their work can make mistakes. In the medical field, that can spell disastrous consequences.

A New York jury recently awarded $55.9 million in damages to a woman who said she was left a paralyzed after a botched medical operation and a failure to properly diagnose her medical condition. According to a lawsuit she filed against the doctors who treated her, the woman underwent surgery in 2009 due to pain and tingling in her neck, arms and hands. During that surgery, a piece for fractured bone penetrated the outer covering of the spinal cord and became lodged there. This resulted in a hematoma, which is the collection of blood. This blood caused pressure on her spinal cord.

The next day, the woman’s blood pressure dropped and she became paralyzed. Although quick removal of the hematoma could have reversed its paralyzing effect, the doctors in question didn’t order testing until three hours after her paralysis, and then they improperly read the test results. This delay caused additional, permanent damage. The woman is now wheelchair-bound and is incapable of living what she likely once thought of as a normal life. The woman succeeded on her lawsuit and was awarded compensation for her damages.

No New Yorker should have to go through what this woman did. Yet, medical malpractice is an all too common occurrence across New York and the country as a whole. Although legal action can’t make a medical malpractice victim whole again, it may help lead to the imposition of liability, the recovery of compensation and a step toward a new beginning.