Sometimes, a doctor who is supposed to be healing you causes more damage. Or, in the case of a birth, a doctor could cause a birth defect if he or she does not act immediately or make the right decision in a difficult birth. If you have been injured or a loved one died because of the actions or inactions of a medical professional, contact our Tampa Medical Malpractice Lawyers for a free consultation. You may wonder just what medical malpractice is. Healthcare professionals must provide an “accepted standard of care” so as not to put you at risk for more injury or death. If a medical professional does not provide you with care and treatment that meets the accepted standard of care, he or she may be considered negligent in his or her duties. This negligence could cause you additional illness, the loss of a limb, the loss of a baby during the birthing process, or even the loss of your life.
Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice
While dealing with pain and limitations that could come from a medical procedure that went wrong, or that didn't happen when it should have, is stressful and tends to take up a lot of your time; you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. The statute of limitations for most cases is only two years. In some cases, such as those that involve fraud, intentional misrepresentation, or concealment, you have longer to file a court case, though that should be done as soon as you learn of the wrongful act. Even though you contact an attorney, the statute of limitations could run out on you; if it does, you won't be able to file a lawsuit. The issue is that Florida has several pre-suit requirements for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, including conducting a pre-suit investigation. Though you could file a petition in the court to stop the time for the statute of limitations, you get only a 90-day extension to conduct the pre-suit investigation. This investigation is to ensure that you name everyone that should be named in the lawsuit. In addition to the pre-suit investigation, your attorney must notify each defendant of the intention of filing a lawsuit. The defendants' attorneys must also complete an investigation regarding liability, and informal discovery must be completed.
Medical Malpractice Caps
One of the first questions you may have is whether there is a cap on how much you can recover. Florida Statutes does provide for a cap on non-economic damages. The caps vary from $250,000 for practitioners who provide emergency services and care to $1.5 million for certain catastrophic injuries or death. Economic damages are not capped. A non-practitioner is defined as a clinical nurse specialist, nurse practitioner or physicians' assistants (Page 1, Executive Summary). Prior to the new laws implementing caps, the cost for non-economic damages was the highest in the nation with a volume of twice that of the national average.
- If a practitioner is found to be negligent, the cap is $500,000 per claimant. However, if the negligence of the medical professional caused death or a vegetative state, the cap is $1 million. Additionally, if the court finds that the capped non-economic damages are extremely unfair or that the practitioner causes a catastrophic injury, it may award up to $1 million.
- Non-practitioners could be liable for up to $750,000 in non-economic damages. The cap raises to $1.5 million in certain circumstances.
- Practitioners who provide emergency services and care could be liable of up to $150,000 per claimant. However, if there is more than one claimant, the cap is $300,000 to cover all claimants.
- Non-practitioners who provide emergency services and care could be liable for up to $750,000 per claimant or $1.5 million for more than one claimant.
- A practitioner who provides services to a Medicaid recipient may be liable for up to $300,000 per claimant.
Setoffs may apply to each category of defendants and are applied after determining comparative fault.
Three types of damages are available: Economic, non-economic, and punitive. Punitive damages are only awarded when a medical professional was grossly negligent in his or her care for you or your loved one.
This type of damage is a financial loss because of the injuries you sustained. Economic damages may include:
- Medical costs: Medical costs are for injuries you suffered as a result of the mistake of a medical professional.
- Future medical costs: You may need additional surgery, therapy, and follow-up appointments because of the mistake of a medical professional. These are estimated, so be sure to let your attorney know if you have any underlying conditions such as diabetes that may hinder healing.
- Lost wages: You may be compensated for the time you missed from work because of the injuries you suffered.
- Loss of earning capacity: If you are unable to return to work or must take a job that pays less because you cannot do the same work you did before the injury, you may be compensated for the lost job or the difference in pay.
Because you don't know how much future medical care will cost, your attorney will need to estimate those costs. If you have underlying issues such as diabetes or another issue that could cause healing to take longer, always let your attorney know so that he or she is able to better estimate future medical costs and future lost wages or loss of earning capacity.
Non-economic damages don't have a price tag attached to them. These are the damages that are capped and may include:
- Pain and suffering: This is for long-term or permanent pain and suffering, not something that is short-term or for a problem that could be rectified within a few months.
- Inconvenience: It is inconvenient—to say the least—to continue going to the doctors for additional care because of a mistake.
- Physical impairment: If you are not able to complete work around the house, go shopping or take care of your family, you may be compensated for the physical impairment.
- Mental anguish: A mistake that could lead to a significant change in your life could lead to anxiety, depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder. You may be compensated for mental anguish.
- Loss of capacity for enjoyment of life: You may no longer be able to do the things you once did with your family, such as hobbies, walking, fishing and otherwise spending time with them.
- Disfigurement: If the medical professional's mistake left you disfigured, you may be entitled to additional compensation.
- Loss of consortium: If you are unable to enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse because of a medical professional's mistake, you may be entitled to additional compensation.
Types of Injuries
A medical professional could cause many types of injuries, including:
- Birth defects: Birth defects are often genetic, but if a doctor or other health professional makes a mistake in diagnosing a problem with the mother before birth, doesn't take the patient to surgery soon enough when there is a problem with the birth or causes muscle damage in assisting the birth, those defects are because of the negligence of the doctor. Some birth defects, such as cerebral palsy, are lifetime afflictions. Others, such as damage to the muscles may last a few weeks or months.
- Amputations: When a doctor is negligent in treating an infection a limb may need to be amputated. Doctors have also been known to amputate the wrong limb. If you must have a limb amputated because of the negligence of a doctor or if a doctor amputates the wrong limb, you may be entitled to compensation.
- Leaving medical equipment such as sponges inside after surgery: This is more common than people think. It is easy to leave medical equipment in the body if it is something like a sponge that is soaked in blood, which makes it difficult to see. However, leaving the foreign matter in the body could cause pain and suffering and additional surgery to remove it.
- Disfigurement: If a doctor does not use the standard of care in closing you back up after surgery, you could be disfigured by a scar that is larger than it should be or is lumpy. You may be entitled to compensation for disfigurement.
- Misdiagnosis: If a doctor doesn't properly diagnose the problem, you could suffer from additional injuries and pain and suffering. In some cases, a misdiagnosis could also lead to death. For example, you go in with abdominal pain and the doctor repairs the injury but neglects to find and treat sepsis, which causes more pain or death.
- Early release: A doctor may be held liable if he or she releases you prior to it being safe for you to be released. For example, if you are getting a chemo treatment and the treatment requires you to stay for overnight observation for fatal side effects of the chemotherapy. The doctor releases you a few hours after treatment, but you die in your sleep because one of the side effects is low blood pressure and your blood pressure drops too low.
- Ignoring or misreading lab results: Should a doctor ignore lab results or does not read them properly, it could affect his diagnosis of you, or could cause the doctor to not treat you if he does not see a problem with the lab results. For example, if you are tested for red cell counts prior to chemo. Your counts must be within range to receive the chemo because a side effect of the chemo is dropped counts. The doctor ignores the lab results and gives you the treatment anyway, resulting in difficulty breathing and ultimately, either brain damage or death.
- Errors during surgery: Errors during surgery could range from leaving the foreign matter in your body to cutting into something that shouldn't be cut into, such as a major blood vessel or vein.
- Prescribing or giving you the wrong medication or the wrong dosage: If a doctor or nurse gives you the wrong medication damages could be minor side effects to death. If a doctor or nurse gives you the wrong dosage, it could cause you to overdose. For example, a doctor gives you a prescription for 10 mg of pain medication but writes the wrong dosage of 100 mg. The extra high dosage could cause brain damage or even death.
- Poor follow-up care: A doctor who does not provide quality follow-up care could miss side effects and other issues that could cause additional injury or death.
- Failure to order the correct testing: A doctor does not order the correct testing and as a result misdiagnoses your problem or sends you home because he or she can't find the problem. As a result, you suffer more pain and life-threatening issues that you should have been hospitalized for.
- Surgery that is not necessary: As part of a misdiagnosis, the doctor performs surgery that is not necessary. Or, you go in for one type of surgery and the doctor performs another type of surgery because he read the wrong chart or read your chart incorrectly.
Medical malpractice also covers birth defects that are caused by the negligence of a doctor:
- Before birth, if the doctor did not advise treatment for certain illnesses that caused the defect; and
- During the birthing process if the doctor did not order emergency surgery or other procedures when needed to help the child into the world.
As soon as you learn of a birth defect and believe that it was caused because of a medical professional's wrongful action or inaction, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer in Tampa as soon as possible.
Tampa Medical Malpractice FAQ
We trust Tampa's doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to diagnose and treat illnesses and diseases based on their specialized knowledge and training. Tampa doctors also take an oath to not cause harm. Tampa medical professionals who do not provide the required standard of care to their patients put them at risk for injury or death, which can lead to a great deal of harm. Medical malpractice also undermines the trust that we have for Tampa's medical field, causing additional emotional distress for victims and their families. If you know or suspect you or your child has been injured as a result of the negligence or intentional harm of a Tampa medical professional, Florida law permits you to take legal action against the party who caused harm. Contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to discuss the details of your injury and learn about your rights. Under Florida law, medical malpractice suits have special requirements that set them apart from personal injury lawsuits based on ordinary negligence. Until you have the chance to consult with one of our dedicated attorneys, we have provided some answers to frequently asked questions about Tampa medical malpractice lawsuits.
What injuries and events constitute medical malpractice in Tampa?
Not all injuries in the presence of a medical professional fall under the umbrella of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice specifically refers to intentional harm, fraudulent behavior, and negligence, all of which your attorney must prove for you to prevail in your claim. The Florida Supreme Court has issued opinions that medical malpractice claims must meet two conditions:
- The negligent act which led to injury must have resulted from diagnosis, treatment, or care.
- The diagnoses, treatment, or care must have been given by a healthcare provider.
Common events that constitute medical malpractice, especially when they lead to injury, include:
- Failure to diagnose a disease or illness
- Diagnosing the wrong disease or illness
- Failure to inform patients of side effects and risks of medicinal and surgical treatments
- “Never events,” including performing surgery on the wrong part of the body, performing surgery on the wrong patient, leaving foreign objects in a body, and other surgical errors
- Failure to provide proper aftercare for treatment or surgery
- Failure to obtain a complete medical history to uncover allergies and other issues that could interfere with treatment or surgery
- Medication errors such as prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dosage
- Failure to perform or order the applicable diagnostic tests and laboratory work
- Abuse of a patient, emotionally, physically, or sexually
- Intentionally covering up a known medical error
Do I need to hire a lawyer to file a medical malpractice lawsuit?
Medical malpractice claims are complex lawsuits with many moving parts. Additionally, multiple parties can be named in a lawsuit, resulting in more paperwork and confusion. This alone justifies hiring a lawyer, but medical malpractice suits in Florida also have a host of procedural requirements that begin before you even file a suit. Hiring an attorney will ensure you meet all necessary deadlines and requirements, giving you the best chance to receive compensation for injuries related to medical malpractice. It's almost always in your best interest to consult with an attorney to at least discuss the best course of action for your case.
What special procedures must I follow to file a Tampa medical malpractice suit?
If you choose to file a medical malpractice suit in Florida, you must adhere to the state's pre-suit investigation requirements. Your lawyer will walk you through this process, which begins with an application for a pre-suit investigation. The application must include reasonable grounds for your claim, provided in writing by a medical expert. Under Florida law, medical experts are those who regularly practice in the profession and hold a professional degree. Once you have obtained a written expert opinion, Florida law requires you, or your attorney, to follow these steps:
- Your lawyer must send a pre-suit notice to all those named as defendants in your claim. This can be the doctor, but can also include the hospital or other medical professionals. You must include copies of the medical records your expert used for their written opinion, as well as a list of all known health care providers you have visited for your injuries, and any you have visited in the previous two years.
- You must provide a copy of your complaint to the Florida Department of Health. If you have named the hospital, rehab center, nursing home, or another facility in the lawsuit, you must also provide a copy of your complaint to Florida's Agency for Healthcare Administration. These Florida agencies review the complaint and choose whether to take disciplinary action against the doctor and/or facility.
- You must wait while the defendant(s) perform their pre-suit investigation. They have 90 days for their insurance company to determine liability and decide if malpractice occurred. The review process can include an internal review by a representative; a panel review with a lawyer, medical expert, and claims adjuster; and a medical review committee.
- Before the 90-day waiting period ends, the defendant(s), or their insurance carrier, must respond to the claim by rejecting the claim, offering a settlement, or offering to enter mediation or arbitration.
- After the defendant responds to your complaint, Florida law gives you the longer of 60 days or the remainder of the statute of limitations period to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
What is the statute of limitations for Tampa medical malpractice claims?
If you have suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice, you have limited time to take legal action against the responsible parties. Florida law has a two-year statute of limitations which applies to the vast majority of medical malpractice claims, but exceptions do exist. They include:
- Delayed discovery. In some situations, you might discover your injury long after the damage occurred. For example, if you had surgery, and the surgical team left a sponge inside your body, you might not discover this for weeks or months until you start having complications. Florida law provides that you have two years to take legal action from the time you discover your injury or the time you should have discovered your injury.
- Statute of repose. This is an absolute time limit on filing claims. The statute of repose on Florida medical malpractice claims is four years from the date of the incident that led to your injury. If you attempt to file a suit after four years, it's highly unlikely a Florida court will hear your case.
- Children. In Florida, children under age eight do not have to comply with any statute of limitations or statute of repose. For example, if your child suffered a birth injury, but you don't figure out the issue until he or she starts missing developmental milestones at age 5 or 6, you can still take action on behalf of your child.
- Fraud, concealment, intentional misrepresentation. If the medical professional or facility attempts to conceal an injury, you have an additional two years from discovery and Florida law extends the statute of repose to seven years for those who are age eight and older.
What losses can I recover in a medical malpractice claim?
Your medical malpractice lawyer will ask for compensation for damages related to a wide array of economic and non-economic losses caused by medical malpractice. If you reach a settlement or the court rules in your favor, you can recover some or all of the following damages depending on your specific circumstances.
- Medical treatment costs including ambulance and emergency services, emergency department visit, diagnostics, surgery, hospitalization, and prescription medication
- Rehabilitation expenses such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, and assistive devices like wheelchairs, walkers, and canes
- Lost wages from missing work due to injury, treatment, and hospitalization
- Future lost wages when medical malpractice causes a catastrophic injury that prevents a patient from returning to their job or seeking gainful employment in the future
- Costs for transferring a patient to a different rehab facility or nursing home if the malpractice occurred in a short-term or long-term care setting
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Reduced quality of life
- Punitive damages in extreme cases involving intentional harm or concealment or gross negligence
If you lost a loved one as a result of medical malpractice, you might be eligible for compensation in a medical malpractice wrongful death suit. Florida law permits surviving family members to take legal action to seek compensation for damages related to the loss of their loved ones. In many cases, eligible family members can recover some damages listed above, costs for funeral services and burial, and other non-economic damages dependent on the relationship with the deceased. Your lawyer can answer any questions you have about a wrongful death suit and help you determine the best path forward for you and your family.
How much compensation can I receive from a Tampa medical malpractice lawsuit?
Florida, like some states, has maximum limits for compensation in medical malpractice claims. No limit exists on economic damages like medical expenses and lost wages, but caps exist on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and mental anguish. The limits for non-emergency care are:
- $500, 000 for each practitioner or employer named in the suit with a $1,000,000 maximum for the claim
- $750,000 per claim when a non-practitioner causes injury, capped at $1.5 million per claim
Some specific situations increase the maximum limits to $1,000,000 for practitioners and $1,500,000 for non-practitioners. They include:
- Medical negligence led to death or a permanent vegetative state (PVS).
- The judge believes the cap will create injustice in severe cases of non-economic harm.
- The medical negligence caused a catastrophic injury preventing a victim from returning to work or seeking gainful employment in the future.
In scenarios where a patient must receive emergency care, limits on damages are $150, 000 against practitioners and $750,000 for non-practitioners, with respective caps of $300,000 and $1.5 million. Different limits on non-economic damages also apply to Medicaid recipients, typically $300,000 maximum per claim, and a cap of $200,000 per practitioner. Judges sometimes remove the limit when the practitioner has acted in bad faith or caused intentional harm.
Can I afford a medical malpractice lawyer to advocate for me?
Yes, do not let concerns about attorney fees stop you from getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries. When a medical professional or facility causes you illness or injury, you should not have to carry the financial burden of medical expenses, lost income, and other economic costs, nor should you be responsible for attorney fees. It is an industry standard for medical malpractice attorneys to represent clients on a contingency fee basis—and the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA follow that standard. When you hire us for a medical malpractice case, you'll pay nothing. We understand the difficulties you face in the wake of your injury and want to help you hold those who harmed you accountable. When a law firm takes your case on contingency, it means you do not pay upfront attorney fees or out-of-pocket attorney fees. Instead, you will sign a fee agreement that states the firm will deduct their cost of representation and attorney fees only from any settlement or court-awarded damages you receive.
How much is my medical malpractice claim worth?
Every scenario is different, so it's impossible to predict a financial outcome in a medical malpractice claim. Your attorney will evaluate your case, look at past similar cases, and consult with necessary experts to determine the amount of damages you should seek in your lawsuit. This, however, does not mean you will receive the amount you initially ask for because the defense will argue your claim is too much. Many factors help your lawyer determine the monetary value of your claim. Some questions your attorney, the defense, and the court will evaluate to determine the value of your medical malpractice claim include:
- What is the severity of your injury?
- What is the nature of the injury?
- How much total economic loss have you suffered?
- What is your long-term prognosis?
- How has your injury impacted your life in non-economic ways?
- Did the medical professional who caused your injury intentionally harm you?
- Did the medical professional or facility try to conceal a medical error that caused your injury?
Contact the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA if a Doctor's Negligence Injured You
If you are suffering from a mistake made by a medical professional or lost a loved one due to the negligence of a medical professional, contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA at (833) 552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) for a free case evaluation.
13513 Prestige Pl. Suite 103
Tampa, FL 33635