Immunity from Liability
According to New York Social Service Law ~ 419 (McKinney Supp. 1999), a medical provider who acts in good faith and without willful misconduct or gross negligence has immunity from any civil or criminal liability when making a report, taking photographs, seeking the removal or keeping of a child pursuant to the statute, or making a disclosure to Child Protective Services in compliance with child reporting laws. The privilege or confidentiality of medical records/information is superseded regarding reports of child abuse and maltreatment. For a mandatory reporter to be successfully sued for false reporting in New York not only must the false nature of the report be proven, the plaintiff has to prove that the provider engaged in willful misconduct or gross negligence in reporting. Successful suits in this area are virtually non-existent.
When there is a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the diagnosis is abuse or maltreatment, that diagnosis should be noted in the medical record as the primary medical diagnosis. After the child's safety has been assured, make the family aware of the diagnosis. The parents should not be misled regarding the true nature of the hospital admission or diagnosis.
Penalties for Failure to Report and False Reporting
As a mandated reporter, if you willfully fail to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment, you will be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. You are also civilly liable for damage proximally caused by failure to report. If you knowingly report false or baseless information regarding an alleged occurrence or condition of child abuse or maltreatment that in fact did not occur or exist, you are guilty of false reporting in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor.