Why are medical malpractice cases so strict?
The guidelines that must be met are in place to help prevent—or at least deter—false medical malpractice claims. Personal health and well-being can change suddenly and seemingly without cause; it is human nature to want answers and closure. Hospitals, medical professionals, and other figures in the healthcare industry often find themselves being wrongly accused. This has led most states to increase the difficulty of opening a tort case and lower the possible settlement from winning one.
Is a doctor or hospital always responsible for a patient’s injury?
A hospital, doctor or other health care professional is not liable for all the harms a patient might suffer. They are only legally responsible for harm or injuries that resulted from their deviating from the quality of care that a competent doctor would normally provide in similar situations, and which resulted in harm or injury for the patient.
Expert Witnesses in Medical Malpractice Cases
Medical malpractice cases rely heavily on the testimony of an expert witness who is there to help prove the defendants case by giving their expert medical opinion on the situation. The witness must be educated, trained, or have more or equal experience than the at-fault party in the matter being argued to be able to give a reliable opinion.
Florida has certain guidelines for expert witnesses that are expected by the court to be met before the proceedings can move forward. Before the actual trial, the expert witness will give their testimony to the trial court judge without the jury present. The judge will then decide if their testimony is worthy of being presented to the jury.
Before this initial presentation of testimony to the judge, the defense expert reviews the case. During this period, they look at all the facts pertaining to their area of expert to prepare their opinion on the matter. If the med-mal case is credible, the medical expert will arrive at a differing opinion than the defendant’s expert, or at least raise doubt in the minds of jurors that the defendant’s actions could have caused the injuries or death.
Types of Expert Witnesses in a Medical Malpractice Case
Most reputable personal injury law firms who have tried a significant amount of medical malpractice cases already know medical experts that specialize in different fields and who are themselves experienced in testifying to their knowledge in front of a court. It is one thing to understand your field well; it is another to present that information to a jury and judge while being cross-examined by a hostile defense attorney. As you might expect, the types of things that cause injury or death in a healthcare setting can very widely. This means that there are many different types of expert witnesses that could be used in a medical malpractice case.
The most common type of expert medical witness is usually a specialist in a certain medical field. For example, if someone was injured during orthopedic surgery, an orthopedic specialist would be the obvious choice to testify about that information. A medical expert witness may also be a Medical Examiner who can testify to the cause of a death or the factors that contributed to that victim’s death. They may also be scientists, experts in a related field, or general practitioners who can contribute to more general concepts like standard of care.
Types of Medical Malpractice Damages
Depending on the damage incurred, you may be entitled to a certain amount of compensation. However, this compensation is limited (usually termed capped) to a certain amount which varies from state to state. There are a few different types of damages you can seek due to medical malpractice. (For more details on the subject, see in depth Medical Malpractice damages).
- General Damages: These damages can range from life-altering pain and suffering, to future lost earnings due to potential inability to work caused by the injury. For example, if a person was being drafted to the NFL and, as a result of medical malpractice, lost a limb, the potential earnings from the NFL may be sought as general damages. It also covers general loss of enjoyment of life (known as hedonic damages). These damages are usually asked for and determined by the expert witnesses that testify.
- Special Damages: These are specific, calculable expenses like medical bills, lost wages from missed work, calculable future lost earnings from missing work, modifications to the home to compensate a disability, etc. These damages can be proved by paperwork, receipts, or anything of the like and often require little to no testifying.
- Punitive Damages: The damages are separate from general and special damages and seek specifically to punish the doctor or healthcare provider for their actions. They are rare in medical malpractice, but it does happen. Punitive damages are usually reserved for the most extreme of cases in which a provider’s actions were intentionally harmful and obviously deplorable. (For more on medical malpractice punitive damages, see this article from AllLaw.com).
Regardless of the damages caused, Florida has a limit of $500,000 in compensation for medical malpractice suits against a healthcare provider, and a surprising $750,000 against non-medical practitioners. (For more information on Florida medical malpractice laws, see §766 of the Florida Statutes).
Though it is growing harder to win a medical malpractice case due to increasingly stricter requirements, it is possible and does happen. You may have some leverage that you’re not even aware of that could be crucial to winning your case, so it’s important for you to talk to an attorney as soon as possible.
Florida Statutes of Limitations on Med Mal Cases
A “statute of limitations” is a state imposed deadline on how long the injured party has to file a lawsuit against the healthcare provider. Florida’s statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases can be found at: Florida Statute § 95.11.
In Florida, the injured person, or their family, must begin filing the medical malpractice lawsuit within 2 years of discovering their injury. However, a victim has four years in total from when the malpractice occurred. These restrictions are in place to deal with situations where a person didn’t know they were injured until much later. The time restriction is also meant to protect healthcare providers so they cannot be sued for a surgery they performed 10 years ago, during which time many other circumstances could have contributed.
Florida does have one exception to this rule, which comes into play if the healthcare provider, surgeon, or doctor intentionally hid their medical malpractice from you. In this situation, the statute of limitations is 2 years from when the injury was discovered or 7 years from when the medical error occurred.
The statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases does not apply to cases involving minors, as long as they were under 18 at the time of the error or incident.
Pre-Suit Requirements on Statute of Limitations
In Florida, a person injured by a medical professional are required to notify the health care provider of their intention to sue. This is notification must include an expert witness’s sworn statement on the merits of their med mal claim.
Why choose Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA?
Medical malpractice is almost never intentional. Sometimes, healthcare professionals make personal decisions when trying to solve an issue. For example, a patient may show signs of deep nerve damage and high pain tolerance, so a chiropractor applies more force than usual, causing damage to a patient’s spinal cord and permanent paralysis. While this case is an extreme example meant for illustrative purposes, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. The worst part is, that chiropractor, even though they had no intention of harming the patient, may end up facing no consequences, charges, limitations, or punishment. It’s usually a double-edged sword, so to speak. Yes, accidents happen. And perhaps some sympathy for this chiropractor—who never meant to cause such life-changing and possibly life-ending harm—should be expressed. But, NEVER should a patient who has received such damages be ignored because of it.
Here at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we fight to make things right. It’s absolutely unacceptable for a patient to be a victim of real, clear-cut medical malpractice. The last thing people expect is to be injured or made sick while in a hospital to get healthy. If you believe you may have a medical malpractice case, we can help. There may only be a short window of opportunity for you to pursue your case, so don’t wait any longer. Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys are ready to fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
We have represented medical malpractice victims who have suffered the following injuries as a result of negligence by a physician or medical provider:
- Birth trauma or negligence during delivery resulting in cerebral palsy.
- Brachial plexus injury caused by errors made during the birth delivery process.
- Broken bones and permanent nerve damage caused by a surgeon’s negligence.
- Post-operative infections or surgical site infections as a result of negligence by either a Surgeon, surgical staff under the surgeon’s supervision or a healthcare provider.
If you are wondering whether you need a personal injury attorney to help you with your case, checkout our article, “When Do You Need to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?” where we get the opinion of attorneys from around the country.
About Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA was founded in 2009 by Attorney Matthew Dolman—president of the firm. Matt attended Stetson University to major in their trial advocacy program. He chose Stetson because they have one of the highest rated trial advocacy programs in the nation. Matt has been selected for Florida Rising Stars in 2013–2017, a prestigious title given by Super Lawyers rating service to outstanding candidates under 40. Matt was also selected as a “National Top 100 Trial Lawyer” and as a “Top 40 Under 40” by NTL (National Trial Lawyers Organization). He also scores a perfect 10.0 rating on Avvo.com, a respected online legal directory. He is also a life member of the Million and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for his largest claim settlements.
Our firm focuses on personal injury law, representing many practice areas, including those who have been a victim of medical malpractice, car or motorcycle accidents, wrongful death, traumatic brain injury, slip and fall accidents, distracted or drunk driving, and many more. At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we’re on your side. Being home to eight experienced, successful, and professional attorneys makes having Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA fighting for you a wise choice. We also provide an important gateway for success by providing our clients with the personal cell phone number of the attorney dealing with their case, enabling real relationships and connections. We’ve been ‘in it to win it’ since 2009 and we hope you are as well.
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“The team at Dolman are outstanding. Extremely professional and prompt to your needs. When going through a difficult time in life it’s nice to have people who care about the things you have no idea about. Highly recommend this group. ”
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Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756
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