Our team of experienced, litigating attorneys have spent considerable in actual courtrooms fighting for victims of medical malpractice in Florida. Our firm has the resources necessary to hire the appropriate expert witnesses, investigators, and specialists necessary to thoroughly prove your case and ensure that your get the most compensation for you injury and pain and suffering.
After you or someone you love is injured due to negligence or malpractice, it is easy–and perfectly natural–to become overwhelmed. To make things a little easier, we have created an article to help you understand how our Florida Medical Malpractice Attorneys can help you.
Florida Medical Malpractice FAQ
We rely on our medical professionals to give us the best possible health care. When something goes wrong, a mistake caused by a negligent medical professional can have long term consequences. According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die every year from medical errors and negligence. Medical malpractice is the third-leading cause of death in the United States, and Florida is no exception.
Each state has its own set of medical malpractice laws in place, and it is important for patients to understand those laws and how they could affect their case. In Florida, medical malpractice is also sometimes referred to as medical negligence.
The compassionate medical malpractice attorneys at Sibley Dolman and Dolman Law Group understand that while the successful outcome of a medical malpractice lawsuit cannot change what happened and the resulting damage, it can help the injured person and his or her family pay the bills and weather an uncertain future.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical error caused by a deviation from the standard of care, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman for a free claim consultation. In the meantime, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about medical malpractice.
What is medical malpractice in Florida?
We trust that any medical professional such as a medical doctor, surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurse, or dentist will provide health care that meets the accepted standards for that profession and the patient’s specific circumstances. Treatment that does not meet the accepted standard of care and results in injury to the patient is called medical malpractice.
The standard of care means meeting the “prevailing professional standard of care,” which means “that level of care, skill, and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.” It is usually what another trained medical professional would do in the same circumstances.
Can I sue a hospital or doctor even if I signed a waiver?
Every medical procedure, including a surgery, has a certain level of risk involved. In almost every case, before undergoing a medical procedure, the patient must sign a series of waivers stating that they understand all of the risks and are still willing to go forward with the procedure. These waivers do not shield medical professionals from liability for negligence. However, these types of waivers, along with other protections in place for healthcare providers, does make medical malpractice cases more complicated, so anyone injured while receiving medical treatment should review their case with an attorney.
If you sustained injuries and damages in Florida because of a serious and avoidable medical or surgical error, you may be eligible to recover monetary compensation under Florida law. Medical malpractice cases can take a long time to resolve, and insurance companies vigorously defend them. This simply means that one must fight fire with fire. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA have the medical knowledge and legal expertise to effectively assist you with your case and represent your interests throughout the entire process.
How long do I have to bring a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit?
You must file a legal action within the statute of limitations period, or lose your right to file a case. In Florida medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations is a little different from that of other types of personal injury lawsuits.
Florida has a two-year statute of limitations in medical negligence cases. Generally, this means that the injured party must bring the lawsuit within two years from the time the patient, family member, or guardian knew or should have known that there was a reasonable possibility that the injury resulted from medical malpractice.
Florida also has a statute of repose. Like a statute of limitations, a statute of repose bars certain legal actions if not taken by a deadline. Therefore, unless misrepresentation, fraud, or concealment exists, one can not sue a health care provider more than four years after the actual malpractice incident.
Why is there a time limit on filing a medical malpractice case?
According to the Florida Bar’s website, the reason for time limits on medical malpractice cases “reflects a legislative determination to curtail frivolous claims, promote settlement, and reduce the high cost of medical malpractice insurance.” In other words, the limitations are there to benefit everyone by keeping insurance costs low for doctors, encouraging the settlement of cases for plaintiffs, and preventing insurance fraud as a whole.
How long does a Florida medical malpractice case take?
Florida medical malpractice cases can take quite a long time—in some instances, several years. Of course, the amount of time it takes to negotiate, try and/or settle a medical malpractice case depends heavily on a wide variation of factors. These factors that determine the length of time it will take to resolve a pending medical malpractice claim include:
- Nature and extent of the claimed injuries
- Length of time it takes to find a medical expert(s)
- The insurance company’s willingness to negotiate
- Any discoveries the come up late in the case
- Court availability
Because medical malpractice cases often involve very serious claims and large settlements, the insurance companies vigorously defend them. Because of this, they are almost never resolved quickly. One should be thinking in terms of ‘months and years’ instead of ‘days or weeks’.
How do I go about proving my Florida medical malpractice case?
In a medical malpractice case, attorneys usually prove medical negligence using expert testimony.
A qualified expert must establish what the standards of good practice were in this situation. A licensed doctor who is currently practicing or was practicing at the time in question, and who is familiar with the standards of good and accepted medical practice for the care in question must testify that the medical provider did not meet the professional standards of care. The medical expert must testify that the injuries probably would not have happened if the health care provider had met the proper standard of care and that the medical professional who provided the care should have reasonably foreseen this type of result.
After the plaintiff’s evidence, the defense may move for a directed verdict if there is not adequate expert testimony of legal cause. Some damage elements, such as physical pain or mental anguish, are proved by the testimony of the plaintiff, family, and friends. However, a bad result alone is not enough: Plaintiffs must prove negligence, and that requires the services of a skilled Florida medical malpractice lawyer.
What are the common types of Florida medical malpractice cases?
Common examples of medical malpractice cases include:
- Emergency treatment negligence
- Delayed or incorrect diagnosis
- Gynecological and obstetrical malpractice and birth injuries
- Surgical errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Failure to diagnose cancer
- Medication mistakes
- Brain injuries
- Misreading or ignoring laboratory results
- Neglect, or failure to meet the needs of the patient
- Disregarding or failing to obtain a proper patient history
Is misdiagnosis malpractice in Florida?
Many medical malpractice lawsuits stem from the misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of a medical condition. When a doctor’s error in diagnosis results in the patient receiving incorrect treatment, delayed treatment, or no treatment at all, then it may negatively affect a patient’s condition. However, a mistake in diagnosis by itself may not necessarily sustain a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Even when medical tests are performed correctly or evaluated by a qualified doctor, tests can still lead to a misdiagnosis. If the misdiagnosis and subsequent treatment do not cause any injury, loss, or damage, there is likely no basis for a malpractice claim.
Is it malpractice if you did not obtain the desired outcome?
It depends on why the desired outcome did not happen. Treatments or procedures that result in unexpected and undesirable outcomes do not necessarily mean medical malpractice. Doctors are required to have the knowledge and skills to care for a patient, but they cannot reasonably guarantee their services.
If the doctor followed the standard of care but did not achieve the desired outcome, then it may not be malpractice. Also, if something could have gone wrong, but there was no harm caused, there is no valid medical malpractice case. But if the doctor deviated from the standard of care and the outcome caused the patient harm, it could be malpractice.
Generally, patients are informed of the possibility of improvement and the risks and give informed consent to procedures. The patient should understand the purpose, benefits, and risks of the treatment. The medical professional also tells them about other alternatives the patient has, in addition to the proposed treatment.
The patient has the right to make a knowing and voluntary decision about their medical treatment before giving the doctor permission to treat them medically for a specific illness or condition. However, even if a patient signs a consent form, the doctor still has a responsibility to meet the standard of care and is liable for mistakes caused by negligence that harmed them.
Who can sue for medical malpractice in Florida?
Someone who was injured as a result of medical negligence may bring a lawsuit. If the injuries are “severe, permanent, and disabling,” family members (specifically the patient’s spouse, children, or parents) may file a claim. In Florida, parents can only sue for malpractice if their children are 25 or under. When someone aged 25 or under dies as a result of medical negligence, the patient’s family may sue under the Florida Wrongful Death Statute (F.S. 786, 17-21).
Who can be held liable for medical malpractice in Florida?
Many people think that only doctors can be liable for medical malpractice.
Actually, any licensed medical practitioner can be found liable for medical malpractice, including:
- Hospital Staff
- Any hospital or ambulatory surgical center;
- A birth center;
- A medical doctor;
- An osteopathic doctor;
- A chiropractic doctor;
- A podiatrist;
- A naturopath;
- An optometrist;
- A registered nurse or nurse practitioner;
- A dentist, dental hygienist, or dental laboratory;
- A midwife;
- A provider of orthotics, prosthetics, or pedorthics;
- A physical therapist;
- A health maintenance organization;
- A blood bank;
- A plasma center
Nursing home cases can sometimes constitute malpractice as well.
How do I know if I have a Florida medical malpractice case?
To establish a valid claim, you must prove the following elements:
- A doctor-patient relationship.
- A duty or standard of care.
- A breach of the duty of care.
- The breach of the duty of care was the primary cause of injury.
- The injury caused damages.
What is the law in Florida regarding medical malpractice?
If a patient receives negligent medical care in Florida, or by a Florida-based liable party, the injured person may bring a medical malpractice lawsuit under Chapter 766 of the Florida State Code.
To recover compensation, one must show that the healthcare professional provided substandard medical care and that their negligence caused harm. The law defines negligence as the failure to use ordinary care. It is not enough to simply show that a doctor has made a mistake. Professional negligence is a health care provider’s action or omission that is contrary to good and accepted medical or nursing practice.
The injured victim must serve the health care provider with a notice of intent to sue before filing the claim. This notice must include a written affidavit from a medical expert that states that a valid medical malpractice claim exists. Once the provider is served, there is a 90-day settlement process that will temporarily halt the time limit to file your claim.
The defendant’s insurance company must respond within the 90 days, indicating either that they admit liability to the malpractice, offer to settle, or reject the claim. If the defendant admits liability, then the plaintiff must respond within 50 days stating whether they accept or reject the settlement offer.
During this 90 day time period, if the health care provider decides that they do not want to settle, then the injured party has 60 days or the remainder of the time limit to file a claim with the court or ask for an investigation period so that a medical expert can evaluate your case.
Medical malpractice cases usually require extensive investigations. Supporting evidence on both sides of the case may include documentation, and witness testimony, such as depositions and interrogatories. If the case does not settle, the parties usually proceed to trial. Attorneys present the evidence, argue the case, and the jury renders a verdict.
What damages can I recover in a Florida medical malpractice case?
Damages are compensation for the harm done to the patient that directly results from the health care provider’s negligence. Medical malpractice injures a victim in many ways. It causes economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages, and non-economic damages, like pain and suffering. The court awards compensatory damages to help the injured victim return to the emotional and financial state they were in before the injury.
Compensatory damages can include:
- Past, current, and future medical bills
- Costs of medical equipment
- Home healthcare expenses
- Lost wages
- Emotional duress
- Loss of future earnings potential
- Loss of spousal relationship (loss of consortium)
- Pain and suffering
Wrongful death occurs any time a person dies due to the carelessness, negligence, omissions, or wrongful acts of another, including medical professionals. However, as provided in the Florida Wrongful Death Act, Florida Statutes 768.16 et seq., when medical malpractice results in a fatality, only certain family members can bring a case for wrongful death.
Rarely, the court awards punitive damages in medical malpractice cases. The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the medical professional for egregious actions or negligence.
What should I do if I was injured in a Florida medical malpractice case?
For the victim and his or her family, the possibility of medical malpractice is frightening and stressful. Do your best to take these important steps:
- Ask questions. Many people are intimidated by medical professionals, but you have a right to have your questions answered. You may have to be direct and persistent.
- Document everything. It is easy to forget information such as names of medical professionals, dates, times, and treatments. Details that may seem minor at the time may prove to be very important later.
- Keep a copy of your medical records. You are entitled to a copy of your own medical records. To obtain complete records, you may need to request them from doctor’s offices and hospitals. You may have to complete a written request, but do not become discouraged. There is no need to explain why you want copies.
- Consult an attorney with medical malpractice experience. Medical malpractice is a tricky, complex area of the law. You may not have the proof that malpractice applies to your case, but an attorney can evaluate your case and guide you through the process. Do not sign documents or agree to a settlement without first speaking to an attorney who knows the law and the time limits that may affect your case.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical malpractice, consult an experienced, compassionate Florida personal injury attorney at the Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman to discuss your legal options.
To schedule a free consultation or case evaluation with a Florida medical malpractice attorney, please call us today at (727) 451-6900 or contact us online.
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