We put a lot of trust in medical professionals. Many people visit Sarasota hospitals and doctors’ offices each day seeking expert medical opinions and listening to the advice of professionals who have years of education and training. When we put our health and safety in a doctor’s hands, we should be able to trust that they will treat us in accordance with the standard of care expected of all medical professionals. When a doctor fails to do so, they can cause serious and unnecessary injuries to patients.
Some Statistics About Medical Malpractice
According to the Medical Malpractice Center, medical errors cause serious injuries to or the premature deaths of up to 200,000 people a year. Fewer than 20 percent of the victims of medical malpractice file lawsuits against the providers who injured them. Of those who do file lawsuits, fewer than 20 percent receive any sort of monetary compensation for their injuries. Often, the lack of success in filing a medical malpractice claim is due to the injured parties being unaware of the complexity of medical malpractice laws, filing past deadlines, failing to account for the limitations in damages, and discounting many of the administrative and procedural rules that are required for a successful medical malpractice claim.
Florida’s Medical Malpractice Laws
If you’re considering filing a medical malpractice suit in Florida, there are some aspects of the law that you should be aware of:
- Statute of limitations: The statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice claim in Florida is two years from the time of the injury or the time in which the injury was discovered. After four years following the event that caused the injury, a claim can no longer be made, regardless of when the injury was discovered. Some exceptions to this include situations in which the injured party was a minor at the time that the injury occurred, the patient was mentally incompetent, or the malpractice was fraudulently concealed.
- Non-economic damages that can be received by the plaintiff are capped at $500,000.
- Florida’s comparative negligence law can reduce the amount of compensation that an injured party receives. Some examples of comparative negligence include a patient who does not follow the doctor’s advice for follow-up care or failing to take prescribed medications.
- Florida’s medical malpractice law also allows for joint and several liabilities, when more than one healthcare provider had responsibility for the patient’s injuries.
- In order to file a medical malpractice claim, the injured party must notify the healthcare provider in writing of his or her intent to sue. In addition, a qualified medical professional must validate the malpractice claim. These two actions will begin a 90-day investigation of the claim before the suit can be filed.
- Unless the parties agree to submit the claim to binding arbitration, they must attend a mandatory mediation conference within 120 days after the claim is filed. The parties must also attend a settlement conference at least three weeks before the trial.
- Florida’s law also includes provisions that prevent insurers from acting in bad faith, such as refusing to settle with an injured party when the settlement is within the limits of the insured provider’s policy.
- Florida’s Good Samaritan Law prevents those who render free emergency care or treatment in response to an emergency situation without objection from the patient from being held liable for damages that occur as a result of that care or treatment. The law extends to those licensed to practice medicine.
- In Florida, providers at university or teaching hospitals are generally exempt from lawsuits for medical malpractice.
Some Newsworthy Examples of Medical Malpractice in Florida
According to a report from the Florida Record, parents filed a medical malpractice suit in Pinellas County in September, alleging that Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital rendered negligent treatment that resulted in the death of their child. The complaint states that a nurse tried to insert a nasal tube into the child’s nose that was not positioned properly. The tube was inserted into the patient’s pleural cavity, which caused her lung to deflate. Nurses further allowed food particulate to enter the child’s lungs after the feeding tube became dislodged. The child suffered for two months with a punctured lung before dying, the report noted. The family is seeking a trial by jury.
In June 2018, a judge in Miami declared that caps on the amount of non-economic damages that can be received in medical malpractice cases is unconstitutional. As reported by the Daily Business Review, Miami-Dade circuit judge Jose M. Rodriguez denied a motion in which the damages received by two former patients of Dr. Taylor Poole would be reduced from $500,000 to $350,000 because of a law that caps non-economic relief at $350,000 in cases where the plaintiff previously rejected a settlement offered by a defendant. In February, a jury had awarded the plaintiff $450,000 for pain and suffering following a failed cataract surgery and awarded her partner $50,000 for loss of her services, comfort, society, and attention.
In 2016, Dr. Poole performed cataract surgery on the plaintiff and improperly placed a toric lens, the Daily Business Review noted. The plaintiff began suffering from chronic dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, and ocular pain following the surgery. Dr. Poole attempted to relieve the blurred vision by performing a second surgery on her. The attempt was unsuccessful. It was later discovered that the toric lens the doctor had placed in her right eye had been improperly positioned. The plaintiff later received an additional surgery from another doctor to correct the issues, but that surgery was only partially successful.
Rodriguez stated that the statute capping the non-economic damages are unfair to plaintiffs in cases involving large liability and leave victims with no recourse.
As reported by the Florida Record, in September 2018, the Florida Supreme Court overturned the dismissal of a medical malpractice case in which a 20-year-old woman died days after giving birth to her stillborn child. The trial court had dismissed the case because it determined that a medical expert was not qualified to provide an expert medical opinion on the case. The expert attested in a sworn statement that she was a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, the report stated. However, the defense argued that she had retired from her practice in 2008. The Supreme Court, in its majority decision, noted that the expert had been an Ob-Gyn for three decades before choosing to pursue a different career. The defense failed to prove that this decision negated her ability to give an expert medical opinion, the court stated.
An article from WUSF News from April, 2018, details how the Florida Supreme Court—in an opinion on a case regarding a deaf child with a psychiatric condition who had to have part of her leg amputated following a confrontation with staff at the National Deaf Academy—attempted to draw a line with medical malpractice cases that don’t involve medical providers. The court stated that, by limiting malpractice cases to only negligence by medical professionals, it would help those who are victims of non-medical negligence cases to avoid the pre-suit procedures that are part of malpractice claims. The court stated that it was also trying to reduce the number of frivolous claims and advance its goal of encouraging early settlement in medical malpractice suits. The court’s opinion added that the case did not involve a breach in the professional standard of care that is required for a medical malpractice case.
Were You the Victim of Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice comes in many forms and it can be difficult to know if it happened to you. The following are some examples of medical malpractice:
- Failure to diagnose – Getting the correct diagnosis is essential to receiving the treatment you need. When a doctor does not perform the correct tests or ask the right questions based on a set of symptoms, a patient can go undiagnosed for some time or can receive a misdiagnosis. When this happens and a patient is denied necessary treatment, their condition may worsen and complications may develop, requiring more extensive and costly treatment in the future or even becoming untreatable.
- Medication errors – Doctors write numerous prescriptions each day—in fact, more than 4 billion prescriptions were filled in 2017 in the United States, with over 266 million in Florida alone. In addition, hospital staff members distribute pills to thousands of patients each day. If a patient receives the wrong medication, the wrong dose, or fails to receive their medication, they can suffer serious effects, including allergic reactions or overdose.
- Surgical errors – Surgeons are highly trained medical professionals, which is important because surgery is often inherently risky. A lot can go wrong with any procedure and these chances increase if a doctor makes a mistake during the surgery. Unfortunately, such mistakes do occur and may include operating on the wrong patient or body part, anesthesia errors, operating while fatigued or impaired, not using proper sanitation procedures, leaving objects inside a patient, and more. Such errors often put a patient’s life in jeopardy and may require additional procedures to correct.
- Birth injuries – We rely heavily on doctors during pregnancy, labor, and delivery to ensure that both a mother and baby stay healthy and safe. Doctors can fail to perform certain tests, fail to diagnose complications or health conditions in the mother or child, fail to monitor a mother, fail to order a necessary c-section, misuse birthing tools, and other mistakes. Such errors can cause serious and lasting injuries to a newborn and/or a mother, which can affect entire families and change a child’s future prospects.
- Hospital malpractice – Hospitals are bustling places with a high turnover of patients. While nurses and other hospital staff should be highly organized and keep track of patient files, schedules, and vital signs, mistakes happen more than you may realize in hospitals. Patients can contract infections from unsanitary equipment, slip and fall because they were not supervised, and suffer other injuries due to negligent care in hospitals.
Medical professionals are not held liable for every mistake they make or injury to a patient. If they were, they may be too afraid of making a mistake to provide adequate care. You should have an experienced Sarasota medical malpractice attorney review your situation to determine whether you may have a medical malpractice claim.
Medical Malpractice Claims Present Complex Challenges
There are several reasons why medical malpractice claims can be particularly complicated matters. First, the standard for malpractice is a specific one and can be difficult to prove. In order to prove that a doctor committed malpractice, you must prove the doctor failed to meet the expected medical standard of care. This standard states that a doctor should treat a patient in the same manner as another similarly trained doctor. For example:
An emergency room doctor failed to diagnose a heart attack and instead sent a patient home with a diagnosis of indigestion.
- Another emergency room doctor would likely have made the correct diagnosis based on the symptoms presented.
- The patient suffered harm and unnecessary losses as a result of the misdiagnosis.
Because these determinations depend on specific medical standards, they often require the analysis and opinion of medical experts. Expert witnesses are often a key element to proving a medical malpractice claim.
Furthermore, the laws regarding medical malpractice are different than other types of personal injury claims in Florida. First, the statute of limitations is shorter for medical malpractice claims than other personal injury lawsuits, as a patient must file a claim within two years of discovering—or when they should have discovered—their injuries. In any event, a patient must file a claim within four years of the malpractice. A Sarasota personal injury lawyer can identify whether an exception to this time limit applies in your case. The law also requires pre-suit notice and settlement negotiations, which must be followed in order for your claim to be heard. You need the right lawyer who understands all of the requirements and special rules for medical malpractice cases.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA – Sarasota Office