How Does a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Work in Florida?
Your body is a complicated machine, and you probably do not completely understand its functions without a medical background. For this reason, you rely upon healthcare providers to make appropriate assessments regarding your well-being, deliver proper treatment, and provide quality patient care. Physicians have extensive training and education that prepare them to fulfill these responsibilities, which is particularly crucial in the context of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
However, doctors make mistakes just like others in their own respective professions. The key to errors by healthcare providers is that they can have critical consequences on your life and health. You could incur significant medical expenses to correct the harm and suffer emotional, physical, and financial losses. Many situations of medical malpractice lead to long-term health conditions and complications, and some are even fatal.
Fortunately, Florida medical malpractice laws provide options to patients who sustain harm from a negligent healthcare provider. These cases are a type of personal injury claim, but important differences affect your rights. You can count on your Florida medical malpractice lawyer to aggressively pursue your legal remedies and get the compensation you deserve by law. Some information on how a medical malpractice lawsuit works is also helpful.
Overview of Medical Malpractice Cases in Florida
Medical malpractice is a type of personal injury claim in the same legal category as motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls, and dog bites. The difference with medical malpractice claims is that there are very specific facts you need to prove, known as the essential elements of the case. They are described in Florida’s medical negligence statute:
- There must be a legal duty owed by your doctor to you, but this is usually no problem regarding proof. The duty arises whenever there is a physician-patient relationship, representing an obligation to provide care within appropriate standards.
- You need evidence showing that your provider breached the applicable standard of care.
- You must prove that the breach of the duty of care was the direct cause of the injuries you suffered.
- You must show that you sustained physical, financial, and emotional losses for which you should be compensated.
There is another requirement for medical malpractice cases because you must also meet Florida’s statute of limitations. You must file a lawsuit in court within two years after the malpractice incident, or your claim will be barred forever.
Medical Malpractice Versus Other Personal Injury Claims
Additional factors make medical malpractice cases far more complicated than personal injury claims, making having a Florida attorney on your side crucial. For instance:
- The standard of care plays a significant role in medical malpractice. First, you must prove what it is, based upon the level of skill, training, and care a hypothetical physician would apply under the same circumstances. Second, you must show specifically the actions or decisions by your doctor that breach the standard of care.
- Under Florida’s statute, there are detailed procedural rules you must follow. You must conduct a reasonable investigation before filing a lawsuit, a requirement the state court imposes to reduce baseless claims. As part of the reasonable investigation, the law requires obtaining a sworn statement from a physician asserting that your case has merit.
- The statute also mandates that you prepare a Notice of Filing before you sue, which allows your physician to review and understand the allegations. During the weeks before filing, some discovery will be allowed for the purpose of encouraging the parties to settle.
Benefits of Settling
Though it is important to know how a medical malpractice lawsuit works in Florida, knowing that you have other options to resolve your claim is essential. It may be appropriate to attempt a settlement with your physician and medical malpractice insurer, and the court procedural rules practically force you to consider an agreement at least. The laws are written to encourage settlement after the Notice of Filing, so there is time to submit an offer and review counteroffers.
The benefits of settling are significant, and you should remember the following points.
- As compared to litigation, settlement is a faster resolution. A medical malpractice case could take months or years before trial, while you could reach an agreement and get paid within a few weeks.
- Because your Florida medical malpractice attorney will not be going through all stages of litigation, your legal costs are reduced.
- Settlement is a certainty. When you take your case to trial, there is always the chance that the jury will side with your doctor. A settlement agreement is legally binding, so you have remedies to enforce it as necessary.
Stages of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Once you have met the pre-filing requirements and procedural rules, you file your documents in court to initiate litigation. Every case is different, but yours will likely move through the typical stages of a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Filing the Complaint: Your complaint is the document in which you state the allegations of medical malpractice, which means setting out the essential elements through the facts. You must officially serve the defendant with the entire complaint and attachments, usually through a court officer or process server.
Motions: The parties will attempt to leverage their positions through motions, which request the judge to make a finding on some issue. Motions may be related to discovery, evidence, or reasons to dismiss the case filed by the defendant.
Discovery and Depositions: Both sides will engage in discovery, a process by which parties gain access to testimony and information to be used in the case. Written discovery includes interrogatories and requests to produce documents, while oral discovery is depositions.
Trial: The court will schedule a trial date once pretrial matters are complete. The proceeding involves presenting arguments, exhibits, and testimony to support your position.
Examples of Medical Malpractice in Florida
The general definition of medical malpractice is a breach of the prevailing standard of care, but there are many specific ways a healthcare provider may violate the law. Some examples include:
- Physicians may misdiagnose a medical condition by identifying the wrong ailment, issuing a delayed diagnosis, or not diagnosing your condition. False-positive and false-negative diagnosis can have extreme health consequences for the patient.
- Surgical errors occur when a provider slices into adjacent tissue, operates on the wrong body part, or leaves a foreign object inside the patient.
- You or your baby could suffer birth injuries when a doctor does not provide care within appropriate standards. Cerebral palsy and hypopoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) are often the result of oxygen deprivation during delivery. Misuse of forceps and vacuum extractors can also cause Bell’s palsy and harm the musculoskeletal system.
- Medication errors can happen anytime from the moment of prescribing to administration of the drug. With an overdose, the medication can cause serious damage to internal organs. If providers do not administer a sufficient dose, the patient’s condition could worsen or become terminal.
Monetary Damages for Victims
If you meet the requirements and prove all essential elements of a Florida medical malpractice claim, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses. Monetary damages aim to put you in the same position you would be if the medical malpractice incident never happened. There are two types of compensation available in a medical malpractice case:
- Some of your losses are tangible, measurable, and can be assigned a dollar value. These are economic damages, such as medical costs. You can recover for expenses of all treatment necessary to correct the mistake made by your doctor and lost wages if you missed work to recover from your injuries.
- Noneconomic damages may not be ascertainable regarding dollar value, but you still endure considerable hardship as the victim of medical malpractice. In this category, you may receive compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, scarring and disfigurement, and more. With noneconomic damages, the focus is on how your quality of life was diminished by the physician’s error.
Legal Help is Crucial in Florida
Even with a better understanding of how a medical malpractice lawsuit works, retaining a Florida medical malpractice lawyer for assistance is still necessary. Considering the complex statute, procedural rules, and requirements you must meet before suing, you put your rights at risk by trying to represent yourself. You can trust your attorney to handle all tasks related to your case, such as:
- Collect evidence and your medical records as part of the reasonable investigation requirement;
- Prepare necessary notices before filing the lawsuit;
- Work with a qualified physician to obtain a sworn statement that must accompany your complaint;
- Advise you on settlement options, as well as drafting, reviewing, and negotiating the agreement to settle;
- File the complaint for medical malpractice, in which you describe the facts supporting your case;
- Handle written discovery, including written interrogatories and requests to produce documents;
- Depose parties and witnesses and represent you during your deposition; and,
- Take your case to trial with solid arguments, evidence, and testimony.
Discuss the Process with a Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you or a loved one suffered harm because of medical negligence, it is important to retain experienced legal counsel immediately. An overview of how a medical malpractice lawsuit works is useful, but you need knowledgeable, skilled representation to fight for your rights against the insurance company. Our team at Rosen Injury Law, P.A. is committed to assisting patients with their legal remedies, so please get in touch with us today to set up a no-cost consultation. A Florida medical malpractice lawyer can explain details after reviewing your unique circumstances.