What Happens if a Doctor Makes a Mistake?

March 3, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
What Happens if a Doctor Makes a Mistake?

Doctor Mistakes and Medical Malpractice

As humans, we all make mistakes, and nobody is perfect. However, what happens if a doctor makes a mistake? A doctor’s mistake can cost patients a limb or their lives. As such, civil law allows patients to hold doctors accountable for these mistakes.

However, it's not as simple as making a claim and the doctor admitting fault for what happened. 

When a doctor makes a mistake that jeopardizes patient safety, it may constitute medical malpractice. When a doctor makes a mistake, it may constitute medical malpractice. If you think you may have a medical malpractice claim, contact a licensed Florida malpractice attorney without delay.

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What Is Medical Malpractice?

The law regarding medical malpractice is designed to prevent frivolous lawsuits against healthcare professionals. Consequently, there is a very high standard that petitioners must meet to file a medical malpractice claim. If you are alleging negligence, your lawyer must also investigate to determine that there is a “good faith belief” that the doctor was negligent. 

Florida defines medical malpractice as a breach of the normal standard of care, as is typical for similar healthcare professionals. The normal standard of care will be determined as “that level of care, skill, and treatment that, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.”

Who Can be Sued for Medical Malpractice

The medical malpractice law applies to:

Common Forms of Medical Malpractice

Beyond the legal definition, it is easier to understand what is and is not medical malpractice by looking at real-life examples. The following are examples of medical malpractice:

  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Missed diagnosis
  • The wrong diagnosis
  • Surgical errors
  • Items left in a bodily cavity
  • Administration of the wrong medication or inaccurate dosage
  • Misread or disregarded lab results

What to Do When a Doctor Mistreats You

There is a big difference between a medical error, issues that can spring up during treatment, and medical malpractice. In order for it to be considered medical malpractice, a doctor or other medical professional needs to violate the standard of care in a way that causes harm to the patient. 

What is Not Considered Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice does not include:

  • Issues with the doctor's personality (i.e., rude behavior, the doctor rushing, etc.)
  • Ineffective treatment
  • Unexpected side effects
  • The patient dies sooner than expected

For it to be considered medical malpractice, this means that a doctor needs to do something that their peers in a similar situation wouldn't do and have their action or inaction injure their patient. If an injury occurs and there is nothing within a doctor's power to do, they cannot be considered negligent. A doctor can also adhere to the standard of care, and a patient can still end up injured.

What Should I Do if I Think the Doctor Made a Mistake?

The first thing to understand when a hospital or doctor makes a mistake is that you have rights. You may choose to file a complaint with your state’s medical board, as well as seek remediation through legal means. 

The law allows patients to file a malpractice claim up to two years after the date of the injury. While two years may seem like a lot of time, this is two years shorter than you have to file most other personal injury claims in Florida. This is why it is critical to talk to an experienced malpractice attorney right away. 

There are several steps involved in making a medical malpractice claim, and it can take a long time to build a solid case. The burden of proof is on you to prove that the doctor's actions led to your injury. If you believe you have a malpractice claim, contact an attorney right away. Do not contact the hospital or doctor you believe is at fault. Sometimes, the healthcare provider may be aware of his or her mistake and try to offer you a settlement to prevent legislation. In most cases, this will be far less than what your injuries are worth. 

If you think you may have a medical malpractice claim, it is in your best interest to contact a licensed Florida malpractice attorney without delay. You are advised not to sign anything or accept any offers without talking to a licensed attorney first.

How Do I Prove Medical Malpractice?

Medical Negligence Attorneys FL

While the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, the good news is that your medical malpractice lawyer will do most of the work. To prove medical malpractice, you must be able to show the following:

There was a doctor-patient relationship: For a doctor to be liable in a medical malpractice case, a doctor-patient relationship must exist. This must be a mutually agreed-upon relationship. This relationship usually exists when you go to an appointment or hire a doctor to do surgery. Alternatively, it does not apply to a doctor who gives advice on an online discussion board or a friend or family member who answers your questions at a holiday get-together.

The doctor failed to meet the standard of care: This will be one of the hardest criteria to meet. To make a medical malpractice claim, you must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the doctor's actions did not meet a reasonable standard of care. 

In other words, you must be able to show that another doctor in the same situation would not have acted in the same way. Your attorney will likely call in an expert witness to determine whether the doctor's actions were reasonable.

The doctor was negligent: You must be able to prove that the doctor's actions or inaction led to your injury. In other words, if you are claiming that your doctor missed a cancer diagnosis, you must prove that they did not make the proper diagnosis despite having all the information to do so. 

If you are making a claim that the doctor missed a brain cancer diagnosis, but you failed to tell the doctor that you were suffering from headaches and hallucinations, the doctor would most likely not be found negligent.

The injuries were not foreseeable: Your injuries cannot be the result of a foreseeable consequence of a procedure or action. This means that if your doctor prescribes a medication, and you have an adverse reaction, this reaction was likely a foreseeable side effect of the drug. However, if you schedule surgery to have your appendix removed and the doctor removes your spleen instead, that was not a foreseeable consequence of the surgery.

The doctor's actions led to quantifiable damages: It's not enough to prove that the doctor made a mistake. You must prove that the doctor's mistake caused you actual harm. For example, if the doctor failed to wash his or her hands, and nothing happened, you don't have a claim. If the doctor didn't wash his or her hands, and you suffered from an infection as a result, then you would have verifiable damages.

To prove medical malpractice, your lawyer will use several tools to show your doctor's negligence. This may include:

  • Your medical record: Your medical record is an important part of your medical malpractice case. These records can show your condition before and after your interaction with the doctor. They will also show your symptoms, medication history, and health history. If, for example, your records show an allergy to a commonly used drug in surgery, and your doctor had access to these records and did not check them, he or she will likely be held liable.
  • Witnesses: Were there witnesses to the doctor's negligence? Can another healthcare provider attest to the doctor's actions or your injuries? Can friends and family attest to a change in your behavior or activities?
  • Expert witnesses: You cannot prove medical malpractice if you cannot prove that the doctor did not meet a reasonable standard of care. The traditional way to do this is to bring in an expert witness to illustrate why the doctor's actions were unreasonable and negligent. According to Florida law, an expert witness must be an actively licensed professional in a similar role to the doctor.
  • Physical evidence: Did your injury leave physical scars? Have you required follow-up care or additional treatment as a result of your injury? Physical evidence may include photographs, receipts, surgical notes, or other relevant evidence.

What Happens to a Doctor After a Medical Malpractice Case?

In most medical malpractice cases, the doctor will be able to continue to practice medicine after a malpractice suit. The law understands that professionals will make mistakes from time to time and makes an allowance for this. In fact, a recent study found that over 50 percent of doctors had been sued at least once in their careers. It will be up to the medical board to determine whether the doctor will keep his or her license. 

Generally, unless the doctor's actions are so negligent that he or she poses a risk to other patients or the doctor has faced multiple charges, there will not be any adverse effects. Whether the doctor continues to work at his or her current facility will be up to that provider's employer. In some cases, the doctor may face criminal charges. However, this is exceedingly rare. This usually only happens if the doctor inflicted intentional harm or if he or she was intoxicated or grossly negligent.

How Much Compensation Can I Recover From a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

In 2017, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state's cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice cases is unconstitutional. This means that there is no cap on the amount of damages that you can recover. Your damages will be based on the extent of your injury and the actual costs associated with it. 

In personal injury cases, costs are separated into economic costs and non-economic costs. Economic costs are those with direct monetary value, such as medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic costs are those that are more subjective and variable, such as pain and suffering. Common costs in a medical malpractice suit include:

Economic Damages

  • Medical costs: These costs refer to the actual treatment costs for your injuries. This may include follow-up care, surgeries, medical imaging, medication, physical therapy, counseling, or the use of expensive medical devices.
  • Lost wages: Did your injury cause you to miss time at work? The law allows you to recover financial damages for wages lost from the date of injury to the time you can return to work. This includes any time missed for additional treatment or recovery. Lost wages only begin from the date of your actual injury. If you were in the hospital before the doctor's error, lost wages would not cover this time. If you are unable to return to work at all, you may have a case for future wages.

Loss of earning capacity: Loss of earning capacity refers to the income you earn. If you can return to work, but in a different function than before, you may have a claim for the difference in earning capacity.

Non-Economic Damages

  • Pain and suffering: Pain and suffering damages cover your actual physical and emotional pain after an injury. Commonly covered items include chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and embarrassment.
  • Loss of enjoyment: Does your injury interfere with your ability to do things you once loved? You deserve appropriate compensation when an injury interferes with your quality of life. To prove loss of enjoyment, you must show that you cannot engage in activities you did before the injury. For example, you can't claim loss of enjoyment if your pain prevents you from being a competitive weightlifter if this is not an activity that you enjoyed before. On the other hand, if scars from your injury cause anxiety every time you go out, you have a justifiable claim that you cannot do things you enjoyed before.
  • Loss of consortium: Loss of consortium refers to the loss of a physical or emotional relationship as the result of an injury. This is usually a claim made by the family of the injured or deceased party. While the loss of consortium is often a claim made in wrongful death cases, it can apply to cases of serious and permanent injury. For example, a brain injury may result in a person's ability to talk or connect on an emotional level. A spinal cord injury may affect a person's ability to provide for his or her family or have a sexual relationship.
  • Wrongful death: When a doctor's negligence results in the death of a loved one, it can be difficult to comprehend. The sudden loss can leave you shaken and emotionally distraught. Wrongful death claims cover the pain and suffering of the victim's family as well as any outstanding medical costs, funeral costs, and lost wages.

What Can Dolman Law Group Do For My Medical Malpractice Case?

A medical mistake can lead to high medical bills as well as loss of pay from having to take time off work. Our medical malpractice attorneys at Dolman Law Group aim to help you receive the maximum compensation for your pain and suffering. Hiring an experienced medical malpractice attorney significantly increases your chances of receiving the settlement amount that you deserve. Dolman Law Group can help increase these chances in the following ways:

  • Reviewing evidence
  • Calling in expert witnesses
  • Communicate with the insurance companies on your behalf
  • Negotiate and fight for a fair settlement
  • Proceed to trial if necessary

Need Help? A Licensed Malpractice Attorney Can Answer Your Questions

We hold doctors to a high standard of care, as we should. When a doctor falls short of providing a reasonable standard of care, the injured individual deserves fair and just compensation. An experienced malpractice attorney can help you build a case and hold the responsible parties accountable. 

If you think you may have a medical malpractice claim, don't wait to act. If you have questions about your recent injury, contact Dolman Law Group's experienced medical malpractice attorney at (866) 970-5118 or by filling out a contact form on our website. 

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 
800 North Belcher Road, Clearwater, FL 33765 
(866) 970-5118


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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