Because Florida laws can be so complicated in regard to medical malpractice claims, you need a Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney who fully understands these laws. Contact a Fort Lauderdale medial malpractice lawyer at the law firm of Dolman Law Group for help today.
Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that medical mistakes account for an astonishing one-third of all U.S. deaths. Heart disease and cancer rank first and second, respectively, and medical errors are ahead of the fourth-place respiratory disease for the most common cause of death. Annually, it is estimated that there are more than 210,000 medical malpractice deaths—many of which are preventable. One report estimates the annual fatality rate may be as high as 400,000 based upon unreported and under-reported cases. Florida is also the third-largest state for reported medical malpractice actions.
In the last quarter century, many states, including Florida, have seen an onslaught of medical malpractice lawsuits due to medical errors and injuries. In response, Florida enacted several laws, one of which in 2003 capped certain damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases (see Florida Statute § 766.118). Fortunately for injured patients, 14 years later the Florida Supreme Court struck down that law and eliminated the noneconomic damage cap. (see North Broward Hospital District vs. Kalitan).
Florida does, in fact, have some of the nation's highest malpractice insurance rates. Surgeons and physicians who specialize in obstetrics and gynecology can face annual premiums of $100,000 to $200,000. For the general family doctor, malpractice rates average $20,000 to $30,000 per year. Having substantial insurance policies is important because the costs of malpractice-related injuries can be overwhelming. It's clear that medical malpractice, unfortunately, occurs all too frequently, and patients can seek recovery through malpractice insurance or by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Before Florida attorneys may file a professional liability lawsuit against a medical practitioner, they must certify that they conducted a reasonable investigation and concluded that good faith grounds exist for each named defendant and that good faith can be shown if the attorney obtained an expert's certification. They must provide the doctor with notice of intent to file a lawsuit and engage in settlement conferences before a claim is filed.
What Is Medical Malpractice in Fort Lauderdale?
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider is negligent, meaning the doctor, nurse, surgeon, hospital, pharmacist, or another party deviated from accepted practice norms in the medical community. Not all bad outcomes mean that medical malpractice occurred, nor do all medical mistakes equate to malpractice. That is why an experienced medical malpractice attorney should be consulted.
Four fundamental elements are required to successfully bring a negligence case:
- Establishing a duty: The healthcare professional owes a duty to the patient. A doctor-patient relationship usually supports this first element.
- Breach of duty: The practitioner failed to use the same (or better) degree of care and skill that another healthcare professional would have rendered in the same situation (this is where an expert is often required because no two cases are alike).
- Harm (damages): Was the patient injured, physically or mentally? Is their injury new, or a recurrence or aggravation of a pre-existing illness or condition?
- Causation: Firm evidence is needed to link the breach of duty with the resulting damages.
Medical malpractice cases are highly technical, laden with biology, anatomy, chemical, science, and other specialized terms and knowledge. A good medical malpractice attorney has the resources to handle these issues and has years of experience, knowledge, and insight regarding medical mistakes and malpractice law.
Typical Causes of Medical Malpractice
Here are some typical causes of medical errors, which can result in debilitating, costly injuries and death:
- Surgical mistakes (not only during surgery, but also post-operative care)
- Infections and complications
- Anesthesia errors (wrong dosage, over-sedation, failure to properly monitor a patient)
- Childbirth errors (including prenatal care, labor, and delivery)
- Medication mistakes (prescribing the wrong medicines, wrong dosages, or adverse drug interactions)
- Tired healthcare workers (fatigue, exhaustion)
- Wrong diagnosis (failing to order correct tests, misreading symptoms, not recognizing a condition)
These are only a few of the more common types of medical malpractice you might have experienced. If you suffered another type of medical error or malpractice, and you are unsure what your legal options for financial recovery may be, be sure to contact our office to find out what your case could be worth.
Fort Lauderdale Medical Malpractice Frequently Asked Questions FAQs
Every day, thousands of Americans visit a healthcare provider for routine appointments, emergency treatment, and elective services. For the most part, these procedures occur without issue. But in some cases, not everything goes as planned. Medical mistakes can happen.
According to a recent study, more than one out of every 10 patients is harmed by a medical mistake. When a doctor or healthcare provider makes a mistake, serious injury or death could occur. If you believe you might have a medical malpractice case, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. Below, we look at some of the most commonly asked questions regarding medical malpractice in Florida.
What Are Some Common Examples of Medical Malpractice?
There is a difference between a negative outcome and medical malpractice. The doctor did not necessarily make a mistake just because a patient did not receive the outcome they had hoped for. In the event of an actual mistake, the burden of proof for medical malpractice claims can be extremely hard to meet. This is not because the patients do not deserve justice, but rather that healthcare providers must perform their jobs without a constant threat of litigation. However, despite the difficulty of proving a medical malpractice case, your case might be worth pursuing.
The American Bar Association provides the following definition for medical malpractice: “Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a professional health care provider. . . whose performance of duties departs from a standard of practice of those with similar training and experience, resulting in harm to a patient or patients.”
Common examples of medical malpractice include:
- Missed or delayed diagnosis
- Medication errors
- Unread or misread lab results
- Failure to consider the patient's medical history
- Foreign object left in body
- Unnecessary surgery
To successfully argue a medical malpractice case, you must show, among other things, that the provider had a duty of care (i.e., they were your provider), the provider did not meet their duty of care, you suffered actual quantifiable harm, and said harm was a direct result of the provider's action or inaction.
Which Providers Can Commit Medical Malpractice in Fort Lauderdale?
When people hear the term medical malpractice, they often think of doctors and hospitals. But under Florida Statute § 766.101, medical malpractice covers most healthcare providers. The law specifically defines a healthcare provider as:
- Osteopathic physicians
- Podiatric physicians
- Chiropractic physicians
- Hospitals or ambulatory surgical centers
If your provider is not on this list, that does not mean you do not have a case. Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney at Dolman Law Group for more information.
Facilities or providers typically hold medical malpractice insurance. In the event of a claim, negotiations and discussions will go through the insurance provider. In some cases, such as gross negligence or repeated issues, there may be criminal charges.
Why Do Medical Errors Happen?
Medical providers receive a high level of trust. It can be disheartening to learn of a mistake. The good news is that a significant number of healthcare providers are good people, doing good jobs.
So, what are some of the reasons why medical errors continue to happen?
- Poor training: Training goes beyond the required education. Different facilities have different procedures. When a facility does not ensure proper training, errors and miscommunication can occur.
- Insufficient staffing: Undermanned facilities could lead to cut corners, rushed work, and skipped steps. When a facility operates with low staff levels, the level of risk increases for everyone.
- Fatigue: Healthcare professionals can work long hours. A lack of sleep may lead to poor decision-making, lack of concentration, and mistakes.
- Distractions: Healthcare facilities can be busy. A doctor may become distracted by another patient, another provider, or other events in the facility. These distractions might cause the doctor to overlook important information.
- Miscommunication: Miscommunication often comes out of assumptions. Someone assumes that someone else already looked at lab results or did a test. Another form of miscommunication may come from bad handwriting; written prescriptions or notes that are illegible can lead to catastrophic mistakes.
Understanding the cause of your medical error can help prevent future mistakes and can help prove negligence. Unfortunately, you may not easily access this information. Often, providers will not hand over this information without a court order.
How Do I Prove Negligence in Fort Lauderdale?
Negligence is both the most important component of a medical malpractice case and the most difficult to prove. This is why it can be helpful to talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Florida has strict medical malpractice laws, and an experienced attorney who has substantial experience in medical malpractice litigation can help you navigate the laws and requirements.
To prove negligence, you do not need to prove that there was willful harm; rather, you must prove that the injury could have been prevented and the mistake is not one that a reasonable professional in the same job would make. To do this, your attorney may provide:
- Medical records: Your records can help indicate the state of your health, including any doctor visits, medication, and medical history. If there was a mistake, the cause or relevant information may show up in your records.
- Witness testimony: There are many layers to the medical system. Every time you visit the doctor, you will interact with various professionals including receptionists, nurses, and support staff. Even after your visit, coders and insurance professionals will review your case. What this means is that there is usually at least one witness who may attest to the events that led to the negligence in question.
- Expert witnesses: Sometimes an unclear case lacks overwhelming evidence. However, you must prove that a reasonable doctor would not have made the same mistake under the same circumstances. Under Florida law, you must present at least one expert witness to the court to support your claim.
What Happens If I Signed a Consent Form?
If you have undergone any type of treatment at a medical office or hospital, you have likely signed a consent form. Many patients incorrectly assume that this protects the doctor in case anything goes wrong. However, this is not completely true. The doctor still has a duty to meet professional medical standards. If a healthcare provider made a mistake that led to your injuries, you may still have the right to file a medical malpractice case. To learn more about your rights and how they relate to medical consent forms, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
How Long Do I Have to File a Fort Lauderdale Medical Malpractice Case?
Florida has one of the most generous statutes of limitations in the country for personal injury matters. However, medical malpractice does not fall under Florida's personal injury laws. While personal injury plaintiffs have four years to file a suit with the court, if you wish to file a medical malpractice case, you must do so within two years of the injury or within two years after discovering (or when you should have discovered) the injury.
Exceptions to this rule include if:
- The victim was a minor at the time of the injury.
- The patient did not immediately discover the injury as a result of fraud.
Medical malpractice matters are highly complex and time-consuming. There are many steps you must take before proceeding with a case. While you may qualify for an extension, it is a good idea to bring on an attorney sooner rather than later.
What Damages Could I Recover?
If you are considering a medical malpractice case, it is likely the result of serious and/or traumatic injuries. The purpose of a medical malpractice claim is to recover costs associated with your injuries. This may differ from case to case and may depend largely on the degree of your injuries. However, certain components are common in each medical malpractice case. These include:
- Medical costs: Depending on your injuries, you may need multiple procedures to fix the provider's errors. The goal of a medical malpractice case is to recover medical costs related to the injury. This may include office visits, surgeries, rehabilitation, medication, medical devices, and mental health treatment.
- Lost wages: Serious injuries can interfere with your ability to return to work. When this happens, you may recover the money you have lost from time off work. If you do not work, you may be eligible for payment to cover services you can't perform, such as cooking and cleaning. If you receive lost wages and are not expected to return to work at all because of your injuries, you may have a claim to future lost wages.
- Residential modifications: Serious injuries can make accessibility difficult in and around your home. In this case, structural modifications to your home may be necessary. This can be an expensive cost that your attorney may argue to include in your settlement.
- Pain and suffering: Injuries can cause physical and emotional scars. In personal injury cases, this pain is often referred to as pain and suffering. When calculating pain and suffering, factors such as actual physical pain and emotional distress are considered. This may include depression, anxiety, or PTSD, among other things.
- Loss of companionship: The emotional turmoil of a medical error and subsequent litigation can affect relationships. The same is true about physical injuries such as traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord injuries. When an injury interferes with your personal relationships, you may wish to pursue compensation.
- Loss of enjoyment: We all have things that we like to do. For some, that may be reading or cooking. For others, it may be more physically demanding activities such as hiking or biking. A serious injury can interfere with your ability to do the things you love. This can create negative implications for your overall well-being.
- Wrongful death: Thousands of people die every year because of medical mistakes. Some sources report medical errors as the third leading cause of death. Money cannot make up for the loss of a loved one; but, it could help pay for necessary expenses including funeral and burial costs, lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering.
The Hospital Made Me an Offer. Should I Accept It?
In some cases, the facility or provider is aware of their mistake. As a result, they may attempt to make a settlement offer to prevent you from pursuing litigation. These offers can seem quite large and appealing. However, the initial offer could prove far less than the expenses you've incurred due to your injuries.
When you accept a settlement, you sign an agreement that you waive your right to any further litigation. Once you do this, you have no other options. It does not matter if you did not have an attorney at the time. Refrain from signing anything before you talk to our Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorneys. You can choose to accept this offer at a later date, but it would be helpful to have an experienced legal professional review the terms of the offer.
Do I Need a Fort Lauderdale Medical Malpractice Attorney?
Legally? No. Logistically? It can be to your benefit. Medical malpractice cases are complex. Over the past several years, it has been increasingly difficult for plaintiffs to successfully make a medical malpractice claim in Florida. This has made the process confusing and overwhelming. A medical malpractice attorney could help you understand your rights and help make sure you meet the required deadlines.
Additionally, it may be difficult to appreciate the expense of your injuries unless you are a legal professional. What may seem like a fair offer to you may be severely unjust. It is important to consider your current costs as well as any costs that may come up in the future.
It would be helpful to work with someone who specifically has experience with medical malpractice matters. Medical malpractice is different from other types of personal injury and requires expert knowledge of rules, regulations, and medical standards.
The legal process can feel intimidating. Work with someone who you can trust to fight for your rights and the resources to go up against big insurance companies and healthcare providers. If you have questions about your injuries or need help making a medical malpractice claim, contact the experienced Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA.
What Will Your Medical Malpractice Attorney Do?
Many lawyers handle personal injury cases, but not all lawyers have the depth, experience, and knowledge unique to medical malpractice cases. You want an attorney who understands medical malpractice cases. Your attorney will handle all aspects of your case, including:
- Interviewing you
- Reviewing your medical history
- Investigating your illness, sickness or injuries, so that they can certify you have reasonable grounds to file suit (per Florida law)
- Gathering medical records and reports
- Consulting with other medical professionals
- Monitoring your progress
- Determining the strength of your case
- Putting other parties on notice (this can get tricky when there are governmental agencies involved)
- Negotiating with insurance companies
- Filing suit
- Conducting discovery, which requires a significant amount of time
- Bringing your case to trial if it cannot otherwise be resolved
Your attorney will make a good faith determination whether negligence occurred, which is critical for your case to move forward.
How Much Is My Case Worth?
Naturally, most clients ask, “How much is my case worth”? Although your attorney can give you an approximate range or guideline, there are no guarantees. Much depends on your age, health, occupation, type of injury, long-term prognosis, and other physical and emotional factors.
Damages sought in a medical malpractice claim can include:
- Drug costs
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Medical equipment (e.g., devices, appliances, prosthetics, walkers, wheelchairs, scooters)
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Wrongful death
Other damages are for pain and suffering, the value of which is difficult to calculate and often requires the help of medical and economic experts. No two cases are alike, and you need the right attorney on your side to ensure you receive the full value of your claim.
Will I Have to Bring My Case to Court?
The vast majority of medical malpractice lawsuits can be resolved without ever having to bring your case to court. This is partly because healthcare providers are often covered by malpractice insurance. This is designed to protect the healthcare provider from being found guilty of medical malpractice.
By filing a claim with the healthcare provider's malpractice insurance provider, you may be able to recover certain types and amounts of damages. However, it is important to keep in mind that insurance companies often only cover certain types of economic damages. The insurance company will also only be obligated to cover up to the maximum limits of the policyholder's policy.
If your damages exceed the amount of the insurance policy, the remaining damages can be recovered when you file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the liable party. If bringing your case to court is the best way to recover maximum compensation for your suffering, you should be prepared to bring your case to trial.
Can a Victim of Medical Malpractice Share Fault for Their Injuries?
Yes, victims of medical malpractice are capable of sharing liability for their injuries. Depending on the details of your case, you can expect your injury settlement to be reduced to account for your portion of liability. This is because Florida follows a pure comparative negligence system under Florida Statute § 768.81. Although you will not be barred from recovering compensation, your injury settlement will be reduced accordingly.
For instance, if you failed to follow your healthcare provider's treatment plan, you might be found partially at fault for your injuries. If you were, say, 5% at fault, your injury settlement will then be reduced by 5%. Find out more about how much your medical malpractice lawsuit could be affected by Florida shared fault laws when you contact your attorney for more information.
How Will I Know I Have Grounds for a Claim?
It is more common than you might think for victims of medical malpractice to wonder whether they have the right to pursue a case. Medical malpractice is not always readily apparent. In fact, it may be years before you discover that you were a victim of your healthcare provider's medical negligence.
The best way to find out whether you have the right to pursue compensation through a Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice lawsuit is by contacting an attorney. The vast majority of reputable medical malpractice lawyers across Fort Lauderdale will meet with you for free to discuss the details of your case. From there, you can get a better idea of whether your injuries were caused by medical negligence and what legal options may be available to you to recover the compensation you need.
Call a Fort Lauderdale Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today for Help
If you or someone you know was injured by medical malpractice, don't delay. There are strict time limits to file your case. Your injuries may be substantial, and you should be compensated for your damages. We are the skilled, experienced lawyers at Dolman Law Group, conveniently located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Call us right away at (754) 208-1130 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today.
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Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Phone: (754) 208-1130
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