People seek emergency treatment at hospitals when an accident, illness, or injury occurs and they are in need of urgent medical care and treatment. They generally expect that hospitals are safe and germ-free. Unfortunately, however, that is not always the case.
Some hospitals can be breeding grounds for germs and infections. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control,1 an estimated 648,000 people in the United States develop infections in a hospital on a yearly basis, and approximately 75,000 people per year die as a result of an infection they contract during a hospital stay.
If you have acquired an infection at the hospital, you may have a legal cause of action against the hospital, and our experienced Clearwater medical malpractice attorneys may be able to help. We have the necessary medical knowledge and legal expertise to file a claim and litigate it on your behalf. If our attorneys are not able to obtain a favorable settlement offer, we are not afraid to litigate your case through the Florida court system or take it to trial if necessary.
Hospitals Are Hot Spots for Disease and Infection
Hospitals can be hot spots for disease and infection, which can spread very rapidly. Some of the main reasons why diseases and infections are prevalent in hospitals include the following:
- Multiple patients with serious infections, who are often sick and vulnerable, are cared for by the same hospital medical professionals.
- Health care workers at hospitals often care for different patients using shared equipment, allowing for germs, diseases, and infections to spread quickly.
- Antibiotics are often inappropriately used to treat bacterial infections in hospitals and are overused in many cases.
The problem with overusing (or inappropriately using) antibiotics in hospitals is that it encourages the growth and spread of what are called ‘superbugs.' These ‘superbugs' are immune to the antibiotic drugs and can kill patients' protective bacteria. This allows for infections to quickly develop and spread in a hospital setting.
Although some hospitals are taking steps to reduce infections at their facilities – usually by ending inappropriate antibiotic prescription and use – other facilities have not made the same efforts. In those cases, an infected hospital patient may have a legal cause of action against the hospital for medical malpractice.
Types of Hospital Negligence
In addition to improperly overusing or dispensing antibiotics, medical negligence in the hospital setting could also be caused by one or more of the following:
- Surgical errors
- Neglecting the patient
- Poor communication between doctor and nursing staff
- Misdiagnosis of medical condition
- Doctor fatigue
- Performing improper or unauthorized procedures
- Premature discharge of patient
- Inexperienced or unknowledgeable health care providers
Basis for a Medical Malpractice Claim
If you or someone you love acquired a serious infection over the course of a hospital stay, you may be able to file a medical malpractice claim against the negligent hospital or health care professional. For an infected patient to prove medical malpractice on the part of a hospital or medical professional, he or she must be able to prove a breach of the applicable standard of care.2
Hospitals and their employees owe a duty to patients to abide by the standard of care of a reasonable hospital or medical professional under the same or similar circumstances. An injured patient must establish – usually through expert testimony – that the facility or its employee(s) breached this standard of care, proximately resulting in injuries and damages, including bacterial infections and other serious illnesses.
In the most serious of hospital negligence cases, an infection could result in the death of a patient. Under those circumstances, the decedent's surviving family members may have a wrongful death cause of action against the negligent hospital and/or its employee(s).
Potential Damages Available in Medical Malpractice Cases
When a hospital is negligent, such as by improperly dispensing antibiotics or exposing patients to shared equipment, injured patients may be entitled to sue the hospital and its employees – and potentially recover some or all of the following types of damages:
- Payment of medical bills
- Compensation for time missed from work
- Compensation for past, present, and future pain and suffering
- Payment for future corrective procedures or surgeries
- Compensation for mental anguish and emotional distress
- Compensation for loss of consortium or spousal support
- Compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one caused by the hospital's negligence
Florida Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
Florida has a two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice causes of action. This means that absent some limited circumstances, an injured patient must file a claim or lawsuit within two years of when the patient either knew – or with the exercise of reasonable care should have known – that an injury occurred and that there was a "reasonable" possibility that the injury was caused by medical malpractice.
In addition to the statute of limitations in Florida medical malpractice cases, Florida also utilizes a statute of repose in these cases. This statute says that unless there is fraud, concealment, or misrepresentation – all of which are difficult to prove and which are subject to a seven-year statute of limitations – a healthcare provider cannot be sued for medical malpractice more than four years after the date of the alleged malpractice incident. There is also a special statute of repose for children in Florida.
Under Florida law, whichever time period expires first cuts off the claim at the point, regardless of whether the other statutory time period has expired. If the statutory time period expires, the injured patient is forever barred from seeking monetary recovery or filing a lawsuit for personal injuries or damages as a result of the hospital or health care provider's malpractice.
An experienced medical malpractice attorney will be able to ensure that your claim or lawsuit is filed in a timely manner – and against the proper defendant(s).
Contact a Clearwater Medical Malpractice Attorney Today to Discuss Your Case
If you or someone you love has sustained injuries and damages as a result of a hospital-acquired infection, you may be entitled to monetary compensation under Florida law.