Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death Claims
Of those medical malpractice claims filed each year in the United States, nearly 35 percent of all claims arose out of surgical procedures. Neurosurgery has the highest rate of malpractice claims, encompassing nearly 20 percent of claims overall, and cardiovascular surgery encompasses almost another 20 percent of all claims. Of course, these are known to be “high-risk” procedures, which can result in severe and fatal injuries even absent medical malpractice. However, just because your loved one underwent a high-risk procedure that ultimately resulted in his or her death, does not excuse a surgeon, surgical team, or medical facility from medical malpractice and wrongful death liability.
Florida “Wrongful Death” Claims
A claim for “wrongful death” under Florida law covers a wide array of fatal incidents, which can include anything from death caused by a car accident to intentional murder. If your loved one's death was criminal in nature, this does not preclude a wrongful death claim as wrongful death is the civil murder equivalent and provides important monetary compensation. One of the leading causes of wrongful death claims in Florida is medical malpractice. If a physician, nurse, hospital facility or other licensed medical professional was negligent in caring for your loved one, and such negligence ultimately resulted in their untimely death, then you may have a claim for wrongful death under Florida law.
Florida Medical Malpractice Law
Pursuant to Florida law, in order to recover for wrongful death due to medical malpractice such as surgical errors, you must show that the death of your loved one would not have occurred but for the surgical error. In determining this, Florida courts look to whether the patient's death would have been a reasonably foreseeable result of the procedure if another competent surgeon had performed the same surgery using medically acceptable standards of care. Often in surgical malpractice cases, such as leaving an instrument in a patient or even operating on the wrong patient, which happens nearly 300 times a year in the United States, this is an easy standard to meet. In other cases, however, such as cases involving infection or late developing issues at the surgical site, proving a claim can be significantly more complex. Either way, you will need the assistance of a Florida medical malpractice attorney and a team of expert witnesses in order to litigate your case.
Further, you will not be able to recover for the wrongful death of a loved one if the death was inevitable and could not have been prevented by a competent surgeon. This means that, if you take the risk of operating on someone with a weak heart, knowing the heart might stop no matter who the surgeon is, you likely will not have a medical malpractice claim against that physician if your loved one passed away during surgery due to a weak heart. There is an exception, however, if the true risks associated with the procedure and the patient's medical state were not fully disclosed to either you or your loved one prior to consenting to surgery.
Most Common Surgical Errors Leading to Death
Unfortunately, patients have actually died because surgeons removed the wrong organ and even operated on the wrong patient. Although this is very rare, it happens every year in the United States. Nonetheless, such drastic medical malpractice, which rises to the level of gross negligence and can even be considered manslaughter in some cases, is not often litigated. Instead, the following surgical errors are most commonly seen in medical malpractice cases:
- Leaving objects in the patient's body;
- Anesthesia failures and miscalculations;
- Nerve damage;
- Punctured organs; and
Each of these errors, if left untreated, can result in the wrongful death of the patient, including conscious pain and suffering. However, some of the most severe errors can cause a loved one to suffer irreparable harm right on the surgical table. This includes anesthesia measurement errors because anesthesia affects those areas of your brain that control breathing and if too much is administered, this may result in a lack of oxygen to the brain and resulting brain death.
Most Common Non-Surgical Errors Leading to Death
Although surgical errors are the most common cause of wrongful death claims, many non-surgical errors can also lead to wrongful death. In fact, misdiagnosis and “missed” diagnosis claims can potentially result in a wrongful death and medical malpractice claims. Let's say you were mountain biking, fell, and were rendered unconscious for a time. You recover after a few minutes and present to the walk-in clinic later in the day with a headache and some bruises. If the walk-in clinic simply provides you with some pain medication and tells you the headache will pass, but does not perform necessary head scans and you die a few hours later from a brain bleed, your loved ones may have a wrongful death claim on your behalf.
Among the most common non-surgical medical errors, however, are prescription drug errors. In most cases, doctors are not pharmacists, which means they may not know the deadly effects certain drug combinations can have. Opiates, which are commonly prescribed pain medications, are especially dangerous if not taken according to precise instruction. Further, medical professionals may not take into account your weight and constitution when prescribing dosages, and this may again affect the areas of your brain that control breathing, which is why so many individuals die of overdoses. The actual cause of death is a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Contact a Clearwater Medical Malpractice and Wrongful Death Attorney Today
If you believe your loved one's death may have been the result of a medical error, contact a Florida medical malpractice attorney immediately to avoid being prohibited from filing suit due to time restrictions. An attorney can help connect you with the right expert witness who can testify on your behalf and on behalf of your loved one. The Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has the wrongful death and medical malpractice experience you need in order to get the compensation you deserve. They are your premier medical malpractice attorneys in the greater Tampa Bay area. Contact them today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation about your injuries.