What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Florida?
Physicians spend years in college and medical school, followed by additional time serving as interns and residents. To master a specific medical skill set, they dedicate even more in terms of years of training and education to become specialists. Given this extensive background, you trust your doctor to make sound decisions regarding your health matters and ensure quality patient care, especially when dealing with medical malpractice in Florida.
Unfortunately, physicians are still humans that can make mistakes. The implications can be extreme with something as important as medical care, leading to serious injuries, long-term complications, and even death. Because of the consequences, Florida medical malpractice laws allow you to hold a doctor accountable under certain circumstances. You can recover damages for your losses, but there are strict legal requirements you need to meet. Not all errors rise to the level of medical malpractice, so it is important to understand your rights.
Though these claims fall under the umbrella of personal injury, medical malpractice cases differ in many ways. Plus, specific court procedural rules apply, and failure to comply with them could damage your interests. Legal counsel is critical, so your top priority should be consulting a Florida medical malpractice attorney. Reviewing some background on what constitutes medical malpractice in Florida is also helpful.
Medical Malpractice Under the Statute in Florida
Many of the legal concepts you are familiar with come from common law, a body of rules arising from the cases that judges have decided over the years. Some personal injury cases work according to common law principles, specifically negligence. You would need to prove that the at-fault party failed to act with the same level of care that a reasonable person would. The core concept with medical malpractice cases is also negligence, but it is defined in a statute instead of developed through common law.
The Florida medical negligence statute states that a healthcare provider can be liable if their actions breach the prevailing professional standard of care for that medical area. Therefore, for a medical malpractice case, you must prove:
- Your doctor owed you a duty of care, which exists as part of the patient-physician relationship.
- Your provider deviated from the relevant standard of care.
- You suffered injuries because your physician did not comply with prevailing professional standards.
- You sustained losses due to the injuries caused by medical malpractice.
In addition, another legal requirement is the statute of limitations. There is a deadline on these cases, so you have two years to file a lawsuit in court. If you allow the statute of limitations to expire, your case will be dismissed. Note that different rules for children extend the time you must sue, which is useful for a birth injuries claim.
Focus on the Standard of Care in Florida
While all of the essential elements are crucial for Florida medical malpractice claims, the standard of care is often at the center of these cases. For one, the statute refers to the prevailing professional standard of care for your physician. You cannot expect an emergency room doctor to have the same experience as your gastroenterologist, so you must show that your physician’s training corresponds to that of a similar, hypothetical provider.
The second important aspect of the standard of care is how your doctor breached it according to the statute. This assessment requires showing the skill, training, and treatment level that would be considered appropriate under the circumstances. If the hypothetical physician had made different decisions or acted differently, your doctor likely deviated from the standard of care. This breach could be grounds for a medical malpractice case.
Common Types of Medical Malpractice
It helps to understand what constitutes medical malpractice in Florida when you can review some examples.
Medication Errors: Medications are powerful substances that treat, prevent, and ease medical conditions. When they are not administered properly, the patient suffers harm. In the case of an overdose, the drugs may overwhelm the body, often causing damage to internal organs. If your doctor does not administer a sufficient dose, your medical condition could persist, worsen, or become terminal. Plus, those who require medicine for pain management may be in considerable anguish without the proper dose.
ER Mistakes: The emergency room is indeed a fast-paced, hectic, frenzied environment for physicians to provide care. However, these factors do not allow them to conduct their treatment according to the relevant standard of care. Some of the most common errors in the ER include not ordering proper tests and lab screenings, which are crucial for making an accurate diagnosis. Another problem is releasing patients too early, known as wrongful discharge from a health care facility.
Surgical Errors: Contrary to popular misconception, the most frequent mistakes made by surgeons do not involve leaving objects inside the patient. Instead, surgical errors are more likely to be operating on the wrong body part or slicing into an organ or blood vessel.
Birth Injuries: Physicians must be prepared to address issues that arise during pregnancy, labor, and delivery for both the mother and the fetus. Examples of birth injuries include using too much pressure during delivery, often through use of forceps or vacuum extractors. It is also medical malpractice if the doctor does not order a C-section at the appropriate time.
Special Considerations with Misdiagnosis
Another example of medical malpractice is diagnostic errors, which are extremely serious for how they affect the patient. Some cases involve a delayed diagnosis, while others are the wrong diagnosis or no identification of a medical condition at all. Two outcomes could result in a medical malpractice action:
- False-Negative: This scenario occurs with an inaccurate diagnosis, in which the provider states that you do not suffer from a certain condition when you actually do. You will not receive the treatment you need for your ailment. If your doctor made an error by diagnosing something else you do not have, you might receive treatment you do not need.
- False-Positive: This type of misdiagnosis is serious because the mistake dictates all care you receive afterward, and the treatment will be wrong. A false-positive diagnosis is particularly disturbing with cancer. You may be relieved to find that you do not have it, but the damage may already be done. You could have undergone chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, which are harsh, invasive, and carry significant side effects.
Potential Parties in Florida Medical Malpractice Claims
Much discussion about what constitutes medical malpractice centers on a physician’s actions, but other parties may be liable. The statute applies to health care providers as defined by law, and many individuals and facilities are included in the description. You may have grounds to pursue:
- A hospital or health care system;
- Medical practices and clinics;
- Nurses and nurse staffing agencies;
- A hospital, medical group, or clinic that employs your physician;
- Nursing homes and assisted living facilities; and,
- Many others.
Considering the massive losses you could suffer from medical malpractice, it is often worthwhile to pursue all potential parties to ensure you obtain fair compensation.
How Damages Work in Florida
The concept of monetary damages relates to the losses a victim sustains through no fault of their own. Patients are entitled to compensation for these losses by proving the medical malpractice case. The point is to create a situation where the victim is in the same position as if the medical error never happened. This goal is not always possible, but monetary damages go a long way for reimbursement and support to the patient.
There are two types of compensation available in a Florida medical malpractice case:
- Economic damages are the tangible, out-of-pocket losses you can assign a dollar value. Your medical costs to correct the medical malpractice will be a large part of your economic damages. Still, you could also be entitled to lost wages, pain medications, and other expenses related to treatment.
- Some losses are not tangible and are not easy to put a value on. Noneconomic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and other impacts that diminish quality of life.
Help from a Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney
An important first task for your lawyer will be determining if your case constitutes medical malpractice, which requires careful assessment of the facts and evaluating them according to the statute. If you do have a claim, your medical malpractice attorney will manage all other legal requirements, including:
- Conducting a reasonable investigation before filing a lawsuit, which is required by the statute;
- Arranging and preparing a sworn statement from a health care provider who agrees that you have a case, which must be attached to your complaint;
- Advocating on your behalf during negotiations to settle your case out of court;
- Filing the medical malpractice case in court to initiate litigation;
- Handling written discovery, including interrogatories and requests for documents;
- Deposing relevant parties and witnesses and presenting you for a deposition; and,
- Representing you at trial to present arguments, testimony, and evidence to support your case.
Reach Out to a Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer to Learn More
This overview of what constitutes medical malpractice is helpful, but you can see how legal representation is critical when pursuing a negligent healthcare provider. Though it is a type of personal injury case, medical malpractice claims are far more complicated because of the procedural rules. To learn more about your rights, please get in touch with Rosen Injury Law, P.A. We can schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Florida medical malpractice attorney who will review your situation and advise you on the legal process.
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