People visit their doctors and enter hospitals in Clearwater to receive medical care. But what happens when medical professionals don't make people better, but impair their health or do them harm? What if you don't receive proper care, or something goes wrong with the care you do receive? What if a healthcare professional fails to take an appropriate action that hurts you or allows your health to deteriorate?
All of these scenarios constitute medical malpractice. Medical malpractice encompasses a wide range of actions and, at times, acts of omission (failure to do what should have been done). These can be gross errors, such as a failure to diagnose pathology or symptoms, improper diagnosis, and negligence in performing medical services.
They can be medical errors in diagnosis and health management, treatment, aftercare, medication prescribed, given, or dosage amounts. These can be accidents, such as leaving surgical equipment inside a patient during surgery.
If you believe you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice in Clearwater or surrounding areas, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. At Dolman Law Group, our Clearwater medical malpractice attorneys offer a free, no obligation confidential consultation and case evaluation.
We have helped patients who were harmed by medical malpractice in the past, including patients who have suffered:
- Broken bones and permanent nerve damage resulting from a surgeon's negligence.
- Post-operative infections or surgical site infections caused by negligence from either a surgeon, surgical staff, or a healthcare provider
- Birth trauma or negligence during delivery, causing cerebral palsy.
- Errors made during delivery, resulting in brachial plexus injury
Florida law regarding medical malpractice is complicated. Let us help you understand how to pursue justice.
Medical Malpractice Defined
Medical malpractice is professional negligence by a healthcare professional or provider in which the treatment provided fell short of the accepted standard of care, resulted in injury or caused harm, or caused the patient's death. Medical malpractice is, in almost all cases, not the result of deliberate intent.
Medical professionals take an oath to do no harm. Medical professionals and providers want to help their patients—and by far, the majority do. At the same time, though, accidents, mistakes, and deviations from acceptable care standards do exist. No patient should suffer through the failure to provide an acceptable standard of care.
What does a Medical Malpractice Case Need to Prove?
All cases regarding personal injury need to prove certain elements to be successful, and medical malpractice is no exception. The plaintiff's case must be able to prove the following for medical malpractice to be established in a court of law:
The Healthcare Provider Had a Duty of Care to the Patient
A duty of care is the legal duty to provide medical care that a reasonably prudent person would consider reasonable and acceptable. A doctor who sees a patient at a clinic, for example, has a duty of care to provide proper medical care to that patient, and so does the clinic.
Medical Malpractice Causation
The patient's injury was caused by an action (or inaction) that the healthcare provider and or institution did or failed to do. It must also be proved how, why, and when the event, diagnosis, or procedure caused an injury or harm to the patient.
Why Do Medical Professionals Engage in Medical Malpractice?
Every medical malpractice case is different, and the reasons why different medical professionals engage in medical malpractice will vary significantly. For a medical error to be considered medical malpractice, it must violate the standard of care. In many cases, this deviation from the standard of care is due to the medical professional's ineptitude.
They may not be properly educated or trained, or they may simply not be cut out to handle the responsibilities of their position. Sometimes, there may be an element of greed involved, and a medical professional may engage in medical malpractice to benefit themselves.
They may take shortcuts or perform unnecessary treatment for their own personal gain. Regardless of the motivation, medical negligence requires violation of the standard of care. The negligent party must be aware of the fact that they are violating the standard of care. Honest medical mistakes made while still providing the expected quality of treatment are not considered medical malpractice.
What Damages Are Possible in a Clearwater Medical Malpractice Suit?
Legal cases are generally brought to provide victims with economic compensation for the damage done to them. These are referred to as “damages.” In a medical malpractice case, victims can be entitled to the following forms of compensation.
The law terms specific expenses incurred by victims of medical malpractice suits “special damages.” These include:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Expected future medical bills and expenses
- Wages lost from work
- Expected future lost wages from home
- Modifications to home to compensate for a disability, such as a ramp for a wheelchair
These damages are arrived at by determining how much has been spent (with references to bills and receipts). Suppose future medical bills or future wages lost from work are likely to occur. In that case, expert testimony on advisable treatment and length of time likely to be lost from work is usually sought.
Non-economic losses such as pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life are general damages. If the victim has become unable to work at all, future lost earnings calculations are also covered under the term general damages. Expert testimony is usually solicited for general damages as well.
In some extreme cases, punitive damages may be assessed. Punitive damages in all cases are awarded when the harm has been extreme and resulted from intentional actions or particularly egregious behavior. They are intended to punish the defendant for their actions, hence the word “punitive.” These are rare in medical malpractice cases, but they do occur.
Are There Limits on Damages?
Many states have limits on medical malpractice damages. Florida limits compensation for medical malpractice suits to $500,000 against a healthcare provider (such as a doctor or hospital) and to $750,000 against non-medical practitioners.
Is There a Time Limit on When I Can Bring a Medical Malpractice Suit?
Most legal cases must be brought within a certain period, or the court will, in all likelihood, refuse to hear the case. This is called a statute of limitations. The Florida statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is two years from when the person discovers their injury or harm. However, the person has four years from when the incident in question occurred.
Note that the statute of limitations clock starts from when the injury or harm is discovered. That's because, in some cases, the person may not realize they were injured immediately. A surgical implement left in a patient during surgery, for example, can cause complications, but the symptoms may not be apparent immediately.
The four-year statute of limitations is in place due to a statute of repose. After four years, it may be difficult to ascertain what has been caused by past events in a person's health. It also prevents providers and professionals from being sued many years after an event has passed.
There are some exceptions. First, if the healthcare provider or professional intentionally hid their actions from the patient, the statute of limitations is extended to seven years from when the incident occurred. It continues to be two years from when the injury was discovered. Second, the statute of limitations does not apply to people who are under 18 at the time of the alleged medical malpractice.
The Process of Bringing a Medical Malpractice Suit
Florida, like many states, requires a specific process in medical malpractice cases.
The injured person is required to notify the health care provider or practitioner of their intent to bring a suit. The notification must include an expert witness statement, duly sworn, attesting to the merits of the claim. This is done so to discourage suits that are not supported by medical evidence and the proof requirements.
In addition, Florida mandates certain guidelines for expert witnesses before a trial actually begins. First, the expert witness is required to provide testimony to the trial court judge, with no jury present, before trial. The judge then decides if their testimony is worth presenting to the jury.
But before that, the defense expert needs to review the case according to Florida guidelines. They need to review all the facts related to their area of expertise and prepare an opinion.
If an expert's opinion differs from the defense expert, the medical malpractice case is considered credible and will proceed to trial. Note that this determination of credibility is quite different from determinations of guilt or innocence. Those determinations are always made by the jury.
The determinations of defense experts and expert testimony from the plaintiff's side are intended to discourage frivolous or false suits and to establish that the plaintiff's claim of medical malpractice is credible.
Proving Negligence in Clearwater Medical Malpractice Suits
When it comes to proving negligence in a Clearwater medical malpractice claim, you must meet criteria to proceed.
Proving There Was a Pre-Existing Official Relationship
Firstly, a patient/medical practitioner relationship between the claimant and the defendant must be established. It's difficult to prove liability when there are no records of a doctor agreeing to treat you.
With this in mind, a doctor giving you bad or uninformed advice as a friend or acquaintance in a social setting does not qualify. This is not the same as a doctor that has agreed to treat you in an office environment and to act with negligence.
There Was Actual Negligence
As we'll cover later on, not improving from a health perspective is not the same as a doctor being held responsible for negligence.
If you have a terminal or chronic illness, a doctor can provide maintenance care, advice, and/or comfort care. However, they cannot cure you, nor would a reputable doctor make any promises to that effect.
Plenty of generalist doctors are not well-versed in less common ailments and may not know how to treat you. This in itself is not proof of negligence, though. This is simply human nature.
A doctor who had no skills to treat your condition might have made promises that he could cure you. A doctor who is unqualified to treat your condition should always be transparent and refer you to another doctor or a specialist.
You must unequivocally show that the doctor in question directly caused the worsening of a current ailment or the onset of a new one. When proving this, it's not enough to say the doctor's care was sloppy or unsatisfactory. Specifically, you must prove the doctor's level of care was not "reasonably skillful and careful.” This is the true crux of a Clearwater medical malpractice claim.
As noted above, Florida requires that the plaintiff consult with and provide evidence from a medical expert. This person must discuss the required level of care for an ailment and clearly display how your doctor broke from that standard.
Defining a “Standard of Care”
As established, an expert witness must be involved in your case to prove medical malpractice. The standard of care is defined as follows in Florida Statutes § 766.102:
“...the claimant shall have the burden of proving by the greater weight of evidence that the alleged actions of the health care provider represented a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care for that health care provider. The prevailing professional standard of care for a given health care provider shall be 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.”
Medical Malpractice Expert Witnesses
Medical malpractice cases can rely very heavily on expert witness testimony. An expert witness must be at least as educated, trained, and experienced as the person being accused, or more.
Their opinion needs to be reliable. As outlined above, if a cardiologist is accused, the expert witness must also be a cardiologist, and their education, training, and experience must be equal to or higher than the accused.
But the kind of events that cause injury or death in a medical or healthcare setting is very broad and differs from other kinds of events, of course. While some expert witnesses might be experts in the specialty of the practitioner, others might be medical examiners that testify to the cause of death.
Some might be scientists, testifying to a drug reaction. Others might be general practitioners, testifying to the generally accepted standard of care for particular conditions.
Clearwater Medical Malpractice FAQ:
You trust your doctor to give you accurate medical information. Whether they are writing you a prescription or they suggest you need an invasive medical procedure to treat a condition, you trust that what they are telling you is right.
Unfortunately, that's not always the case. All medical professionals—from doctors, to pharmacists, to nurses—can make mistakes that cause life-altering injuries to you or a loved one.
Collecting compensation for injury caused by a medical professional's negligence can help ease the burden. The money can provide you with a way to cover your medical bills and potential financial losses resulting from your medical malpractice injury.
No amount of money can take away your suffering or undo the pain. But working with a skilled Clearwater medical malpractice lawyer can help you focus on your health and getting back to the life you love.
Are Doctors the Only Ones Who Can Be Liable for Medical Malpractice?
No, any licensed medical professional can commit medical malpractice.
The list of people or entities that you may hold liable for your injuries includes:
- Medical assistants
- Hospital staff
- Hospital administrators
Any of these people could act negligently, causing your injuries. To determine which party is liable for your injuries and your subsequent medical expenses, a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney in Clearwater can help you. It's entirely possible that more than one person or entity is responsible for your injuries.
Medical malpractice investigations are complex and must be conducted by medical experts. Your lawyer may have resources they can rely on to fully investigate your injuries and come to an accurate conclusion about who is to blame.
What Are Common Medical Malpractice Examples in Clearwater?
Medical malpractice comes in many forms. It leaves victims with a life that is forever altered and, in the worst cases, the loss of a loved one. About ten percent of deaths each year are caused by medical errors or mistakes. The most common examples of medical malpractice include:
- Birth injuries
- Surgical errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
- Failure to diagnose
- Medication errors
- Brain injuries
- Failure to get consent
- Medical equipment failure
- Medical equipment left inside the patient's body
In many cases, you are being treated by a doctor for a medical issue or injuries resulting from some other type of accident. You expect to come out of your experience feeling better. Unfortunately, this has only made you worse.
Making sure that you recover from these additional injuries should be your sole focus. Working with a skilled medical malpractice attorney in Clearwater can help you achieve your goal of getting better by taking on the responsibility of working to hold the negligent medical professional liable for your injuries and collect maximum compensation from them.
How Do I Know If I Have a Clearwater Medical Malpractice Claim?
Medical malpractice comes in many forms, and it's not always clear whether an error or an injury is a direct result of a doctor's negligence. Simply not getting better is not a sign, in and of itself, that you have suffered a medical malpractice injury.
Sometimes things just go wrong. A medical professional may act reasonably in the situation but still can't correct your medical issue. The only way to know for sure if your injuries rise to the level of medical malpractice is to speak with a Clearwater medical malpractice lawyer today.
Your lawyer can review your medical information, work with their medical experts, and determine whether you have a claim. If you do, your legal representative will work hard to help you collect every dollar you deserve so you do not have to pay out of your own pocket to recover from your injuries.
What Damages Can I Recover in a Medical Malpractice Suit?
When your lawyer files a Clearwater medical malpractice claim on your behalf, the goal is to collect maximum compensation from the at-fault party. After suffering unnecessary injuries, the last thing you need is to have to shoulder the financial burden of paying your medical expenses and covering your financial losses.
Your lawyer may try to collect compensation for you that covers:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost wages
- Lost income
- Lost earning potential
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of life enjoyment
- Present and future medical expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
Depending on the severity of your injuries, the vast majority of your medical needs will come in the future. This means that the medical bills you see piling up on your kitchen table represent only a fraction of the total you will need to pay.
But your injuries are not your fault, and you should not be on the hook to pay these bills. Beyond that, if you can't return to work, the accident will further hinder your ability to earn a living. Your family may feel pressure to work overtime or take on additional jobs to cover the financial loss of you being out of work. That's not their burden to bear.
By partnering with a trusted Clearwater medical malpractice lawyer, you can work together to recover maximum compensation for your injuries. This can include covering your estimated future medical bills and financial losses. This amount of money might be extreme, so getting appropriate legal help now can relieve your stress and worry over how you pay those bills.
How Much Is My Clearwater Medical Malpractice Case Worth?
This is the most common question we get. Ultimately, we cannot provide an exact answer. Any lawyer who does give you a precise answer is being dishonest. There is no way to know exactly how much money you can recover with absolute certainty.
But we can work to create an accurate estimate by partnering with medical experts who can investigate your injuries. These experts will help you and your legal team understand what you face and determine how much that might cost.
They will also estimate how much time you will spend out of work and if you can ever return. Collecting compensation for your lost income could account for a substantial portion of your financial recovery.
However, the only way to be sure you have an accurate estimate is to partner with a Clearwater medical malpractice lawyer who has proven experience helping victims like you. At Dolman Law Group, we have the experience and compassion that you deserve.
Will I Have to Go to Court?
Many people fear going into a courtroom. We get it. It can be a nerve-wracking experience. But sometimes, it is necessary to help you recover every dollar you deserve.
Our goal is to settle your case out of court. However, insurance companies might refuse to settle for a fair and reasonable amount. We may need to take your case to trial to help you make a complete recovery when this happens.
Medical malpractice claims may also end up in court simply because of their complexity. Your injuries might be extremely severe, and it may be challenging to clearly determine who and what caused your additional injuries. Going to trial can paint a clearer picture that may result in you getting the compensation you need to cover your medical expenses and financial losses.
This is also why you must choose a Clearwater medical malpractice attorney with trial experience. You do not want your medical malpractice trial to be your lawyer's first.
I Already Have a Settlement Offer. Why Keep Negotiating?
Soon after you have suffered injuries at the hands of a doctor or other medical professional, the insurance company representing the negligent party may contact you with a settlement offer. Many victims get excited by this offer. They hope this means they can put this traumatic experience behind them and move on with their lives.
Unfortunately, this could be the beginning of more troubles. Insurance companies are in the business of making money. If they pay out the full value of your claim, they will not make money.
Knowing that you are worried about your physical health and stressed over how you will pay for the medical attention you need, the insurance company will offer you a quick settlement. They may even tell you that you do not need a lawyer, that this is the best offer they can make, and that hiring a lawyer will only reduce the amount of money you recover. None of that is true.
Consider why the insurance company pressures you to take their first offer. It's because this offer and you not having a lawyer is in their best interest. If you take their offer, you will waive your right to bring any future claims against the insurance company for your medical malpractice injuries.
Months or years later, when the settlement funds have run dry, but you still have medical expenses to cover, it will be too late. That's why lawyers are helpful. Your attorney has your best interests at heart and is always looking out for you.
What Can Your Clearwater Medical Malpractice Lawyers Do For Me?
We can fully investigate your medical malpractice injury and their medical experts' help. We will also stand up to the big insurance companies, aggressively negotiating on your behalf in an attempt to collect fair compensation for your injuries.
The last thing you need is to worry about how you will pay your medical expenses and cover your financial losses. Your lawyer can be the legal advocate you deserve, fighting to protect your rights and help you collect every dollar you deserve.
If You or a Loved One Has Suffered Medical Malpractice in Clearwater
What should you do if you or a loved one has suffered from medical practice in Clearwater or surrounding areas? Frankly, it can be difficult to know what to do. It can be daunting to go up against a medical provider or institution, particularly if you still need medical care.
An experienced medical malpractice lawyer in the Clearwater area can help. At Dolman Law Group, our first consultation is always free. Florida law concerning malpractice is complicated. Let us help. We can explain the law clearly and discuss your case in a transparent way. Contact us today or call (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900
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