Understanding Florida Medical Negligence & Malpractice
In 2017, there were 82,939 physicians in Florida with active licenses. That same year, there were 16.2 malpractice suits per 100,000 residents.
The total payout for those Florida medical malpractice lawsuits totaled $248.9 million dollars. That was a 14.29% increase from the previous year.
If you or a loved one were injured by a medical professional, the situation can feel overwhelming and confusing. Before filing a lawsuit, it’s important to know whether or not you have a case and what to expect if your case goes forward. It’s important to have the correct information and take the necessary steps when pursuing a claim.
Continue readint to learn about what constitutes medical negligence in Florida.
What Florida Medical Malpractice Is
Florida medical malpractice law states that medical malpractice has occurred when a healthcare professional behaves in a negligent manner. Negligence is what happens when a healthcare professional violates his or her standard of care when treating a patient.
In Florida, there is a standard of care that each healthcare provider must give to their patients. It’s defined as the level of care, skill, and treatment that given all the facts of the patient and her or his condition, is recognized by their peers and the law as acceptable and appropriate care.
The standard of care varies from state to state. Various factors weigh in on what an acceptable level of standard of care should be such as the age of the patient and their specific medical condition.
Types of Medical Malpractice
There are several different types of medical malpractice such as:
- Misdiagnosing a patient
- Providing improper treatment
- Making a medication error
- Childbirth injuries
- Medical equipment failures
- Surgical errors
- Emergency room errors
- Cancer misdiagnosis
- Contracting a disease at the hospital
While you may think that medical malpractice is similar to other types of personal injuries such as a car crash or a slip and fall. But medical negligence is governed by state statutes.
Therefore, it’s interpreted through case law and it’s also much more challenging for an injury victim to win a lawsuit in Florida than in other types of personal injury cases. Thankfully, it’s not impossible to win a case, but you need to be prepared.
Florida Statute of Limitations
Every state has its own statute of limitations for a patient to bring about a medical malpractice lawsuit. In Florida, a patient has two years from when they knew or should have known that an injury occurred, most likely due to medical malpractice.
But there’s another statute of limitations, that’s also important to be aware of. The statute of repose states that unless there were extenuating circumstances, a patient can’t sue a healthcare provider if it’s been four years or longer after the malpractice incident occurred.
What You Need to Make a Medical Negligence Claim
There are certain elements you need to bring together in order to prove Florida malpractice such as proving the following:
Breach of the Standard of Care
The victim must provide evidence that the doctor, nurse, or other medical malpractice breached the standard of care according to the laws in Florida that were owed to you or your loved one.
The Florida Malpractice Act requires victims to locate a medical expert who practices in the same field as the doctor who committed the alleged malpractice. You must also obtain an affidavit from that medical expert or your claim will be thrown out of court.
You must also prove causation, meaning it’s your burden to prove that the doctor’s breach was the “proximate cause” of your injury.
In other words, you must provide proof that if it weren’t for your doctor’s negligence, you never would have been injured.
Be forewarned that it’s not cheap to initiate a malpractice claim in Florida. If you’re thinking of bringing about a lawsuit, you must be able to prove you were significantly harmed first.
You’ll have to prove you had to endure significant medical expenses, lost time from work, and have experienced significant amounts of pain and suffering.
Since every situation is different, how your doctor behaves is dependent upon the surrounding circumstances. A doctor is only able to provide certain care depending on the medical equipment what information they have available to them.
In other words, if you fail to notify your doctor you’re taking a certain medication and they prescribe another medication that adversely interacts with the original medication, it’s possible your doctor won’t face legal responsibility for your reaction.
That’s because your doctor did not receive enough facts in order to provide you with reasonable care.
A doctor who is trained as a specialist has a higher level of standard of care because they have more knowledge in their field that a family doctor does.
If your injury is caused by a specialist, you would hold them to the same standard of care as other specialists within their field.
Foreseeing the Injury
There’s another requirement injured parties in Florida must prove. You need to provide proof that your injuries weren’t reasonably foreseeable or an inevitable or necessary result of the medical treatment you received.
Of course, this is only as long as the treatment was provided competently to you.
In other words, if you have open-heart surgery, the surgeon must cut through your breastbone to reach your heart. It’s expected that there will be pain and suffering as a result. You can’t sue your doctor for this unless you can prove the doctor didn’t perform the surgery properly.
Start a Detailed Investigation
An injured party or the family of an injured party should always work with a medical malpractice attorney who is an expert in Florida malpractice laws. These cases are too complex to manage on your own.
An experienced attorney will begin by conducting a detailed investigation. They will start by speaking with the victim or their family to get a detailed story and timeline.
The next step is to review the victim’s medical records. Without those records, it’s nearly impossible to prove and win a lawsuit because it becomes a he-said, she-said argument between the patient and the physician and often the physician wins.
There can be a lot of red tape and struggles involved in obtaining medical records, even though they’re your own medical records. The process often involves legal hurdles that are best left for your attorney to deal with.
Submitting Medical Records to a Medical Expert
Once your attorney has obtained your medical records, their next step is to consult with a qualified medical expert for an independent review. The qualified medical expert will review your medical records to determine whether or not they believe the care the victim received deviated from the national standards of care.
If the medical expert finds this way true, they then determine whether or not the care the victim received caused their injuries. That’s because it’s not enough to prove your doctor deviated from the standard of care for you to win your case, you must prove that their actions or inactions caused or substantially contributed to your injuries.
If the medical expert can prove that the healthcare provider deviated from providing a standard level of care and that there was causation that resulted in injuries, the next step is for the malpractice claim to enter a pre-suit.
Entering into a Pre-Suit
A pre-suit is a 90-day period where the healthcare provider whom you are pursuing a claim against can conduct their own good faith investigation to determine whether any deviations occurred.
After 90 days, the healthcare provider may take one of the following actions:
- Make a monetary offer to settle the case
- Deny the claim
- Do nothing
At this point, the victim and their attorney will discuss their options and decide whether or not they want to continue to pursue a lawsuit against the negligent parties.
Types of Medical Professionals Who Can Be Held Responsible for Malpractice
It’s not just doctors who can be held responsible for medical malpractice. These other professionals are also responsible for providing a proper standard of care to each of their patients:
- Physician’s assistants
- Pharmacy technicians
- EMTs and paramedics
- In-home health aides
- Alternative medicine providers
However, it’s not just individuals who can be held liable for malpractice.
Those agencies such as hospitals and clinics that employ healthcare professionals can also be held responsible through vicarious liability. In other words, a clinic can be held responsible for the people they employ if one or more of the following incidents occur:
- Due diligence wasn’t performed when hiring employees
- Failure to perform clinical tests
- Failure to protect patients from harm due to premises liability problems
- Improperly staffing their facility in order to provide adequate patient care
- Neglecting to keep adequate medical records
- Failure to properly treat an uninsured person during an emergency
A healthcare facility has a duty to provide each patient with the ability to receive a standard of level of care. If they fail to do so, they may be found liable.
And in certain cases, it’s possible to pursue a lawsuit claim involving multiple parties.
Types of Damages You Can Pursue
There is a cap on the monetary amount of damages you can receive from a malpractice lawsuit. If the suit is filed against a medical practitioner such as a doctor or a surgeon, the cap is $500,000.
There is a $1,000,000 cap on non-economic damages for malpractice lawsuits that result in death or a vegetative state.
There are two types of damages claimants of medical malpractice pursue: economic and non-economic.
What Non-economic Damages Are
Non-economic damages include things such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Compensation for psychological disorders
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Trouble sleeping and nightmares
- Chronic pain
- Loss of consortium
Since non-economic damages are intangible they are capped at $500,000.
How much you receive in compensation for medical expenses depends on your condition. This could include money to pay for past, present, and future medical bills.
You may also receive enough compensation to pay for things such as:
- Hospital visits
- Medical devices
- Physical therapy
This is extremely helpful for people with chronic conditions due to their injuries.
Lost wages often includes both the amount of money you have already lost in earned wages as the result of your injuries along with what the court expects you to lose in potential earnings in the future.
Pain and Suffering
When a patient is injured due to malpractice, it’s not just their body that is traumatized. Pain and suffering damages also factor in the emotional toll your injury has taken including any stress, depression, or anxiety you’re experiencing.
Loss of Consortium
Unfortunately, sometimes negligence from a health practitioner results in a person dying. When that happens, the spouse of the victim may be entitled to receive compensation for things such as loss of companionship.
How Long a Malpractice Lawsuit in Florida Takes
No two lawsuits are exactly alike. A number of factors influence how long your claim will likely take before it’s resolved.
However, you can expect that your lawsuit will take a significant length of time. And it’s often also expensive.
Both legal and medical knowledge is required to assess your case. Expert witnesses need to be paid for their testimony and you need them to help you prove your case.
Medical Malpractice Insurance Carriers Will Get Involved
Also, it’s often not just the negligent healthcare provider you’re dealing with. Expect you’ll also have to contend with their malpractice insurance carrier.
And that malpractice insurance carrier will do everything in their power to not pay you any money. They also have a vast and knowledgeable legal team whose job it is to defeat your claim.
As a result, it’s not unexpected for a malpractice case to take anywhere from several months to a few years to reach a conclusion.
If you believe you have a Florida medical malpractice case, you must take action as soon as possible. Not just because of the statute of limitations, but also because you deserve to receive the best care possible.
We can help ensure you receive the support and compensation you deserve. Contact us today to set up a consultation.