Injuries caused by health care professionals
What qualifies as medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice can run the gamut in a hospital or health clinic setting – of which there are many in Florida. If your medical professional committed one of the following acts while you were under their care, you could have legal options:
- Conducted an unnecessary surgery
- Failed to diagnose a condition or offered a wrong diagnosis
- Disregarded or misread lab results
- Gave improper dosage of medication
- Performed surgery on the wrong site or made a surgical error
- Offered poor follow-up care
- Discharged you prematurely
If you think that you could have a case for medical malpractice, you and your attorney must prove negligence on the part of your health care provider. It can’t just be that you are dissatisfied with the outcome of a procedure.
Medical malpractice and negligence
For example, let’s say you had open-heart surgery and the doctor left a sponge in your chest cavity. The sponge infects the surrounding tissue, which starts necrotizing. You require emergency medical care.
- Duty: Once a relationship is established between a doctor and patient, the health care provider owes you a duty of care. This requires the doctor to act like any other doctor would in the same situation. He or she is required to follow standard medical guidelines that are accepted in the medical field. Here, you went to the doctor, submitted personal information and underwent a procedure with this doctor, which established a duty of care between you and the doctor. He was then expected to act like any other doctor would in that situation.
- Breach: After a duty of care is created between the patient and doctor, your doctor must exercise reasonable care and treat the patient like any other doctor would. In this example, the doctor violated standard protocol by leaving a sponge inside your chest cavity, which then necrotized.
- Injury: In a medical malpractice case, the patient must suffer an injury because of the actions of the physician. Here, you got an infection from the sponge in your chest cavity. Your attorney must prove that the sponge directly led to your infections.
- Damages: Your attorney must prove that the patient (i.e., you) suffered economic or non-economic damages from the injury. So, did you have additional medical bills? Did you miss work or have travel costs going to and from doctors’ appointments when dealing with your necrotized chest sponge? Was there pain and suffering?
For the medical professional who was found to be negligent, your lawyer must illustrate that his or her conduct fell below the accepted standard of medical care in the industry. To establish that in court, you will usually have to put an expert on the stand who can testify about the standard of care that was violated.
Medical malpractice in Florida
In Florida, you need to serve a medical professional with a notice of intent prior to starting your medical malpractice case. This should include an affidavit from a health care professional saying that it’s a valid medical malpractice claim. This sets off a 90-day settlement period during which the statute of limitations (generally two years from when the injury was discovered) is tolled. If the medical professional does not want to settle, you get another 60 days to file your lawsuit or the remainder of the statute of limitations, whichever is longer.
The exception to this is if the health care provider tried to conceal the malpractice by fraud or deceit. If that’s the case, then the statute of limitations is two years from when the injury was discovered or seven years from when the malpractice happened. This doesn’t apply to minors if the malpractice occurred before his or her eighth birthday.
Damage caps in Florida
Florida made a major change to their damage caps laws in summer of 2017. There used to be caps on medical malpractice damages in terms of non-economic damages (AKA, damages that are not discernable by receipts or bills – pain and suffering, companionship, etc.). Florida capped non-economic medical malpractice damages at $500,000 for practicing health care professionals and $750,000 for non-health care professionals.
This was changed in 2017 when the state Supreme Court struck down that provision as unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection Clause. Now there is no limit to non-economic damages for medical malpractice cases.
Helpful resources to help you hire the best Florida personal injury lawyer
If you have suffered in a medical malpractice incident and need an attorney, you should speak with one as soon as possible. Consider sitting down with someone in the Enjuris directory – and definitely someone who is licensed within the state of Florida. There are many twists and turns when it comes to state law, and you want to be prepared for them.
- Choosing a personal injury attorney – interview questions
- When do you NOT need an attorney after an accident?
- Preparing to meet with a personal injury attorney
- How damages are calculated