What Is Medical Malpractice?

March 23, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
What Is Medical Malpractice?

If you have suffered an injury or illness after seeking medical treatment from a healthcare provider, you may be wondering if your situation qualifies as medical malpractice. Medical malpractice refers to a legal claim that arises when a medical or healthcare professional fails to adhere to the standard practices of their profession, resulting in harm or even death to a patient. This may occur due to negligent acts or omissions such as mistakes in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or overall health management.

Many of our injured clients struggle with questions such as "how do you know when medical malpractice has been committed?" After all, people who are receiving medical treatment are generally ill in some way. As such, not all poor outcomes or complications are the result of medical malpractice or medical negligence. A medical malpractice lawyer will be able to help you determine if the circumstances of your injury constitute medical malpractice. If this is the case, you may be eligible to recover the cost of financial, physical, and emotional losses in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Medical Malpractice Definition

  • Did you suffer an injury in a hospital or medical institution?
  • Do you believe that medical negligence is to blame? 
  • Can you file a medical malpractice lawsuit?

Before you explore your legal options, you must understand the definition of medical malpractice. A leading United States legal dictionary defines malpractice as “The tort committed when a professional fails to execute their duty properly to a client.”

Medical Tort Definition

A tort is a legal term that refers to an act of negligence that results in injury to another party. This means medical malpractice can occur from an action or failure to act by a wide variety of healthcare professionals. It can apply to any entity that provides medical treatment. 

When a doctor or medical professional causes harm to their patient, they bear legal responsibility, known as medical liability. Medical liability is a liability for any damage inflicted on a patient by a health service provider.  This harm results in significant losses for which the injured patient can seek compensation. 

Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about medical malpractice, personal injury lawsuits, and how to receive compensation for injuries caused by medical error.

Did Medical Malpractice Cause Your Injuries?

Patients or their loved ones may suspect that medical malpractice has occurred. However, as the definition implies, medical malpractice is not an easily definable set of actions. Usually, the standard is that the care deviated from generally accepted standards of care and practice. Medical malpractice can occur in many ways.

  • An error that caused serious illness or death
  • Failure to diagnose a medical condition properly or soon enough
  • Accidents that impair health or cause harm
  • Failure to provide the patient with informed consent
  • Failure to act properly and according to generally accepted professional standards of care

To meet the criteria for a medical malpractice lawsuit, a patient must prove that their injury resulted from negligence. 

The best way to determine if medical negligence led to your injuries is to speak to a medical malpractice lawyer. Your attorney will need to examine the details of your case and review this information with leading medical experts. If medical malpractice has occurred, you will need a tough legal team to fight large insurance companies and medical institutions responsible.

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Who Can I Sue in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

An important component of establishing liability in a medical malpractice lawsuit is demonstrating the defendant was acting in their capacity as a health care professional within the confines of a doctor/patient relationship. A variety of medical professionals may be subject to medical malpractice lawsuits if their negligence harms a patient. This may include:

  • doctors
  • nurses
  • pharmacists
  • physical therapists
  • dentists
  • chiropractors
  • hospitals
  • clinics
  • private practices

If you have reason to suspect that your illness or injuries have been caused or exacerbated by the negligent treatment of a healthcare professional, we recommend reporting the incident as soon as possible. Furthermore, you should get in contact with a reputable medical malpractice attorney. They will be able to point you to a qualified medical professional for treatment and evaluation.

How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice?

Is medical malpractice difficult to prove? Yes, a team of skilled and experienced medical malpractice attorneys must negotiate and litigate these tough and complex cases. To prove a legal case of medical malpractice, a patient must show evidence of four components in a case; the duty owed to the patient, a breach of duty, the harm suffered, and a correlation between the deviation of care and the injury. 

Duty of Care: The first is establishing that the physician owed a duty of care. All medical care providers, whether an individual or larger entities (like hospitals), owe their patients a duty of care. They take a Hippocratic oath to treat their patients to the best of their abilities and judgments without causing harm.

Deviation from Duty of Care: A plaintiff must establish that an action or failure to act violated the duty of care. An act providing substandard or improper patient care is a violation. The failure to act or an omission also qualifies. The violation of the duty of care is considered medical negligence. A negligent act makes the perpetrator liable for injuries.

The Patient Suffered Harm: The patient must have suffered harm or injury.

Injury Must be Directly Caused by Deviation from Care: The harm and injury must be a direct consequence of the violation of the duty of care. In other words, you may have an illness or injury, but it is only compensable through a medical malpractice lawsuit if it is directly related to the care you received or failed to receive.

A medical malpractice attorney knows each step required to prove your case and will help you fulfill these requirements. 

Meeting the Standards for a Medical Malpractice Claim

These components often require expert testimony to establish how the patient suffered harm and the acceptable standards and practices of care in similar and comparable cases. Usually, courts review these standards in the context of care received by similar patients. 

They may consider factors like medical or health conditions, age, geography and environment, and family history of health. The components of a medical malpractice suit are common to all personal injury cases in law. 

If you slip and fall in a grocery store, for instance, you also have to prove the same key elements. In Florida, though, the system for bringing medical malpractice cases is quite different from the system for bringing other cases.

Bringing a Medical Malpractice Claim in Florida

The process of filing a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit has several steps designed to ensure the validity of the case. It also establishes that established medical professionals —peers of the planned defendant as the case goes forward—view it as such.

Give Notice: The law mandates that the injured person (prospective plaintiff) give notice to the prospective defendant of their intent to bring a medical malpractice claim. This notice must contain a statement from a duly sworn expert witness testifying to the claim's merits. As a result, medical malpractice lawsuits are unlikely to pass this step if the claim is not supported by these requirements and medical evidence. The state does this to discourage unmerited or frivolous claims.

Defense Review: An expert for the defense must review the case using Florida's guidelines for medical malpractice lawsuits. That expert must check all the facts specifically related to their area of expertise. Then, they will put together an opinion for the court as to the merits of the case.

Expert Witness Testimony: Before trial, an expert witness must give testimony to the judge slated for the trial. No jury will be present (it is not the trial phase, after all, during which the jury is usually present). The judge determines if the testimony is worthy of a jury hearing it.

The Next Steps in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit After Establishing Credibility

If the courts approve the medical malpractice lawsuit through all these steps, it proceeds to a full jury trial. The determination of credibility is not the same as the determination of guilt or innocence. Only a jury can render a judgment of guilt or innocence. The steps to establish the credibility of the medical negligence claim involve verifying its validity. 

For example, a sick person who did not get better via medical treatment in the way they had hoped may try to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit. They may act out of the understandable desire for an explanation or closure, even if no medical malpractice existed. Legislators designed medical malpractice procedures to protect the plaintiff, the defendant, and the court system itself.

Who Serves as an Expert Witness in a Medical Malpractice Case?

Clearly, expert witness testimony is crucial at the beginning and later stages of medical malpractice cases. Expert witness testimony uses the expertise of a highly recognized authority in the same field as the person accused of malpractice. In other words, the expert must have similar education, training, and experience. 

If an oncologist is accused of medical malpractice, the expert witness should hold a position as a recognized and reliable oncologist. All the expert's training, education, and experience must be at least equal, and in most cases, it will be higher. 

Because the range of potential medical malpractice is so broad, expert testimony is also broad. In some cases, healthcare system administrators may speak to the practices of a healthcare system. In others, a medical examiner or coroner might testify to a death's likely cause. Some expert testimony may come from internists or general practitioners if the accused is an internist or general practitioner.

How Do Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Compensate Victims?

Medical malpractice lawsuits, like all legal suits, seek to compensate victims for harm and injury done. The compensation is monetary, even if it is for non-monetary damages, such as pain and suffering. As an injured patient in a medical malpractice case, you can seek different types of compensation.

Medical Malpractice Special Damages

The first type of compensation is known as special damages. These compensate you for expenses related to the medical malpractice claim, including:

  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Prospective medical bills and expenses
  • Lost wages from work
  • Prospective lost wages from work
  • Changes to dwelling to compensate for a disability, such as a hospital bed or mobility devices

A medical malpractice lawyer will ask for these damages by assessing how much you spent in these categories (or lost, in the case of wages) to date. The court will likely solicit expert testimony if you expect future medical bills or lost time from work. You should keep all receipts and bills from your case to determine and compensate you for those losses.

Medical Malpractice General Damages

General damages are another common type of damage. These comprise non-economic losses, such as loss of enjoyment of life and pain and suffering. If the malpractice resulted in an inability to work in the future, or you can no longer work at your former occupation, you can seek compensation for loss of future earnings under general damages. Expert testimony is usually solicited for general damages as well.

Medical Malpractice Punitive Damages

The court may assess punitive damages if the medical malpractice was extreme, part of a pattern of disregard, or intentional or misleading actions. Punitive damages, as the term implies, punish wrongdoers for their behavior.

Like several other states, Florida has imposed legal limits on medical malpractice lawsuits. The damages are capped at $500,000 for a healthcare provider (such as a doctor or hospital) and $750,000 against nonmedical practitioners.

The Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Cases

Injured patients must bring their medical malpractice lawsuits within a specific time, or the court will refuse to hear the case. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. In Florida, most cases must be brought within two years from the time the person is first aware of his or her harm or injury. 

However, the injured individual has a total of four years from when the incident happened to bring a case. The statute of limitations in medical malpractice begins when the victim first becomes aware of the harm or injury because it is not always apparent that harm or injury has occurred immediately. If you were misdiagnosed, for example, it may take a while for symptoms to occur.

Florida's Statute of Repose Creates a Limited Window to File Medical Malpractice Claims

Why does a person only have four years from the incident to file? This is because of a statute of repose. After that time frame, distinguishing the effects of a medical malpractice case from that of other incidents may become difficult. The statute of repose also guards providers against a medical malpractice lawsuit occurring many years after the alleged event. 

That said, some exceptions to the statute of limitations do exist. If a provider deliberately tries to hide his or her actions, the statute of limitations increases to seven years from the time of the incident. Although, it continues to be two years from when you discovered the injury. In addition, the statute of limitations doesn't apply to minors who are less than 18 years old at the time of the alleged incident.

What if My Loved One Died as a Result of Medical Malpractice?

When someone dies due to negligence, the law allows certain family members and the estate of the deceased to file a lawsuit for damages. This type of lawsuit is called wrongful death. A personal representative of the deceased or the estate must file the lawsuit. The following family members can seek damages as a result of wrongful death:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Adult children of the deceased if there is no spouse
  • Parents of adult children when no other survivors exist
  • Dependents of the deceased, including minor children, adopted children, and other blood relatives
  • Parents of minor children

Wrongful death damages resulting from medical negligence are intended to compensate family members for their losses. For example, a spouse can seek damages for loss of companionship. Spouses and children can seek damages for emotional pain and suffering.

Children may seek damages for the loss of companionship, instruction, and guidance. In addition, the family members or the estate may also seek compensation for medical costs for treatment up to the time of death, burial costs and funeral expenses, and lost wages from work until the date of death.

Why Should I Hire an Experienced Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer?

If you or a loved one has been harmed because of the negligence of a healthcare professional or institution, you may be able to seek compensation for the damages you have suffered. Medical malpractice committed by doctors deviating from the standard of care only to hurt their patients can be grounds for a malpractice lawsuit. 

Dealing with a medical malpractice case on your own often ends up damaging any potential settlement you could attain. Insurance companies always have the advantage in knowledge, experience, skill, and resources. You should consider the impression you give the defendant's representation, as this can influence their willingness to offer a fair settlement. 

By hiring the medical malpractice lawyers of Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, you are signaling to insurance companies that you are serious about recovering a fair settlement. It is in your best interest to hire a medical malpractice attorney that can put you on even footing with the insurance company. We will take over communication with insurance companies and bill collectors, coordinate paperwork, and advocate for maximum compensation in negotiations.

Dolman Law Group Offers a Results-Based Approach

Dolman Law Group has built a sterling reputation by providing award-winning legal representation to clients for many years. As a result, we have earned the satisfaction and respect of our clients. Our medical malpractice lawyers are highly sought-after for their diligent work ethic and strategic minds. As medical malpractice attorneys, Dolman Law Group has recovered millions of dollars worth of damages for injured clients.

Our track record reveals that we can recover maximum compensation for clients injured by medical malpractice consistently. We are always proud to share evidence of our success in terms of settlement values. Additionally, the opinion of our former clients is also a valuable indicator of the quality of our services. Testimonials from our former clients demonstrate our unrivaled skills and highly regarded character as a personal injury law firm.

Contact Dolman Law Group For Help With Your Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Today

For further information on medical malpractice and your specific situation, contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer today. At Dolman Law Group, we help you explore all your legal options from the very start. We offer compassionate and unrivaled legal support and guidance every step of the way. Insurance companies may try to stall negotiations or offer inadequate settlements. 

Dolman Law Group will relentlessly pursue the true value of your damages, even if that means we have to take your medical malpractice lawsuit to trial. Our medical malpractice attorneys will use our resources and legal insight to negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf. Your health should be your primary focus — let us handle the legal work for you. Contact us online today or give us a call at 866-467-0943.


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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