Understanding Florida Medical Malpractice Laws
If you or a loved one is seriously harmed by the negligence or carelessness of a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional in Florida, it is important to speak to an experienced Florida medical malpractice lawyer. Why? Because recent changes to medical malpractice law (a.k.a. tort reform, though it should be called tort deform) have stacked the proverbial deck against injured victims. If you try to take on a big malpractice insurance lawyer on your own, you may wind up having your legitimate malpractice case thrown out on a technicality.
Understanding What Constitutes Medical Malpractice
There are various ways medical malpractice can be committed. However, it is important to keep in mind that just because a doctor or nurse makes a mistake does not mean they are liable for malpractice. The legal standard that must be met is establishing that a breach of the standard of care occurred. We will explore this legal standard further on in this article. But before we get into legal standards, let’s go over some broad areas where medical malpractice routinely occurs:
Improper Administration of Anesthesia
When you undergo surgery, you are probably going to be given anesthesia. This is a substance which will put you to sleep so you are unconscious during the surgery. However, a serious form of malpractice is the negligent administration of anesthesia resulting in anesthesia awareness. This is when you literally awake during surgery and can feel the incisions made by the surgeon. This can be a traumatizing and horribly painful experience. The improper administration of anesthesia can be grounds for medical malpractice since the surgeon and their staff are under a duty to ensure that you are unconscious during an invasive procedure.
Preventable Injuries That Occur While Admitted in a Florida Hospital
Hospitals have a duty to ensure the safety and adequate care of admitted patients. This means they must thoroughly evaluate prospective employees including their prior experience in a hospital environment, any relevant certifications and most advanced level of education. If a hospital hires an incompetent doctor, nurse, or other staffer, the hospital could be held responsible for the harms inflicted on patients due to an employee’s negligence. For example, if a doctor makes a glaringly inaccurate diagnosis or fails to timely treat a patient to the point where their condition becomes dramatically worse, those negligent acts could constitute medical malpractice. Other examples include administering the wrong medication and performing a procedure on the wrong body part (yes, that has happened; many times in fact).
Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis is Grounds for Medical Malpractice
When you go to see a doctor, you expect a thorough evaluation and accurate diagnosis of any serious medical issues. Unfortunately, this does not always occur. Failing to properly diagnose an illness can have devastating effects on your health, especially when the failure to diagnose involved a potentially-life threatening condition like cancer.
Commonly misdiagnosed conditions include numerous cancers such as breast cancer, lung cancer and ovarian cancer. Other commonly misdiagnosed conditions include brain tumors, appendicitis, and ectopic pregnancies. If you or a loved one is looking to file a malpractice claim based upon a misdiagnosis, or delayed diagnosis, you have the burden of proving that the healthcare professional was negligent. This means that there must be evidence showing that the cancer, tumor, or other condition was readily noticeable at an earlier date and a doctor, in a similar practice, would have been able to make the diagnosis after a reasonable review of your records. In addition, your condition must have progressed or become much worse for the claim to be financially viable to pursue. This means your cancer, tumor, etc. must have grown, spread or gotten worse in another manner.
Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim
When a patient is injured due to the negligence of a medical professional, they may be able to file a lawsuit. As mentioned earlier, filing a malpractice claim in Florida is not easy. It is quite complicated. For example, you have the burden of meeting the following elements to successfully bring a malpractice claim against a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional:
- Breach of the Standard of Care
There must be evidence that the doctor, nurse, or other medical malpractice breached the applicable standard of care owed to you or your loved one. To establish that a breach occurred, Florida’s Malpractice Act requires that you find a medical expert practicing in the same field as the doctor who committed the alleged malpractice and obtain a sworn affidavit from the doctor. Without this affidavit, your claim will be thrown out of court.
- Proximate Causation
In addition to establishing a breach of the standard of care, you must also prove causation. This means that you have the burden of proving that the doctor’s breach was the “proximate cause” of your injury. Basically, there must be evidence that, but for the doctor’s negligence, your injuries would not have occurred.
To be blunt, there must be significant harm to you or your loved one to make a Florida medical malpractice claim viable. Why? Because the cost of initiating a malpractice claim is quite high. As mentioned in Element 1 above, you must retain a medical expert to review your file and make a determination as to whether malpractice occurred. Medical experts do not do this for free. In fact, many charge a hefty sum. This means your injury must be serious enough to have resulted in significant medical expenses, missed time from work, and caused extensive pain and suffering.
Damages You Can Pursue Through a Medical Malpractice Claim
If a medical expert signs off on your claim and validates that a breach of the standard of care occurred, and there is evidence to substantiate proximate cause, you can pursue compensatory damages, up to a certain amount. The Florida legislature implemented a “cap” on the amount of damages that can be obtained from a malpractice suit ($500,000 cap on non-economic damages when a suit is filed against a medical practitioner like a doctor or surgeon). Generally, there are two types of damages malpractice claimants pursue – economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include your medical bills and lost wages. Non-economic damages include pain, suffering, inconvenience, etc. They are more intangible damages and those have the aforementioned statutory cap of $500,000.
The Clock is Ticking – Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
If you or a loved one is considering taking legal action, do not delay in consulting with an attorney about your legal option. Why? Because there is a statute of limitations on the amount of time you or a loved one can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a negligent doctor, surgeon, nurse, etc. If you fail to file a claim within the defined time limit, you could be barred from ever pursuing compensation. In Florida, there is a two-year statute of limitations for a malpractice claim based upon the negligence of a doctor, surgeon, nurse, etc. That means you have two years, starting from the date of the injury or when you reasonably determined you were injured, to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Contact a Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one was seriously harmed by a doctor, surgeon, nurse, etc. contact the experienced Florida medical malpractice attorneys at the Pendas Law Firm. Our team of attorneys will take the time to review your medical records to determine whether a mistake or negligent act occurred. We can also sit down and discuss your potential legal options during a free, confidential consultation.