You might have a claim for medical malpractice if you went in for a medical procedure and the doctor or hospital made a significant mistake that caused you to suffer harm. There are additional elements that we have to evaluate before determining whether you have a valid claim, but we start with those initial factors.
If you had an adverse medical outcome in Titusville, Florida, you can call the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine for a free consultation. Our medical malpractice lawyers in Titusville, FL can explore whether you might be eligible for compensation. Call us today at 1-800-747-3733.
Elements of Medical Malpractice in Florida
There are three basic factors we must show to establish medical malpractice in Florida. Our medical malpractice lawyers in Titusville, FL have to prove all of these elements:
- A healthcare provider performed an action or failed to act.
- The action or failure to act was below the prevailing professional standard of care.
- That substandard action or failure to act caused you to suffer medical harm.
Who Can Be a Healthcare Provider in Florida for Purposes of Medical Malpractice
In medical malpractice actions, a healthcare provider can be an individual, like a physician, nurse, dentist, physician assistant, and specialized nurses like a nurse practitioner or nurse midwife. A healthcare provider can also be an entity or organization, like a hospital, clinic, or outpatient surgery center.
What Constitutes an Action or Failure to Act
An action means that the doctor made a mistake when doing something. For example, if your left kidney was cancerous, but the surgeon accidentally removed your healthy right kidney, that is an action.
A failure to act happens when a doctor should do something but does not do so. Let’s say that you had some routine blood work done as part of your annual physical. The report from the lab showed that you had extremely high blood sugar. If the doctor did not follow-up and explore the possibility of diabetes or some other cause for the abnormal test results, that is a failure to act.
Your Harm Must Be Measurable
Not every medical mistake causes quantifiable harm to the patient. For example, an obstetrician picked up the wrong patient file and told the client that, according to the ultrasound, she is pregnant with twins.
Within moments of making the statement, the doctor realized that he had the wrong file, and then he gave the patient the correct information, which is that she is going to have one baby. Although the patient might have experienced temporary stress or anxiety at the thought of having twins, the patient did not sustain measurable harm.
An example of quantifiable harm is when the doctor looked at the wrong patient medical chart and performed a hysterectomy instead of a tubal ligation (tying the tubes to prevent pregnancy). In this situation, with the organs removed, the patient has lost the opportunity to bear children.
Adverse Results Are Not Always Medical Malpractice
The law does not hold doctors and other medical professionals to the standard of perfection. Sometimes people make mistakes that are not medical malpractice. Also, sometimes patients experience a poor outcome without any negligence on the part of the doctor.
For example, some procedures are inherently risky. If a patient elects to undergo a risky medical procedure after a sufficient explanation of the dangers, it is not medical malpractice if one of the adverse results happened and the doctor performed up to the prevailing professional standard of care. On the other hand, the fact that a patient gives informed consent to a procedure does not mean that the doctor can get away with being careless.
Sometimes We Do Not Have to Prove Negligence
In general, you have to prove that your injury was the result of a medical professional’s negligence. There is, however, one situation which you do not have to provide proof of negligence to win your medical malpractice claim.
If the surgeon or another medical professional accidentally left a foreign body, like a clamp, sponge, or surgical needle inside your body after a surgery, examination, diagnostic or another procedure, we do not have to prove negligence. The foreign body itself is prima facie evidence of negligence by the healthcare provider.
The Prevailing Professional Standard of Care in Florida
Healthcare providers must use “that level of care, skill, and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar healthcare providers” to satisfy Florida’s prevailing professional standard of care. Said another way, your doctor must have acted in a similar way as a reasonably prudent doctor of the same specialty or field would have acted.
The Requirement of a Written Certification
Florida statutes require that a lawyer who files medical practice lawsuits also certify in writing that the attorney conducted a reasonable investigation that caused the lawyer to have a good faith belief that there are grounds for a lawsuit against the healthcare provider. Another way to satisfy the good-faith certification requirement is to get a written opinion from a qualifying expert witness that there is evidence of medical negligence.
Healthcare providers are not allowed to obstruct the investigation of medical malpractice. The providers must cooperate with the investigator and hand over copies of their medical records, reports, and bills that concern the treatment and care of the patient.
Florida Has a Short Deadline for Filing Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Florida law does not give you much time to filing a lawsuit claiming that you were a victim of medical malpractice. The deadline to file a lawsuit is a statute of limitations. The Florida statute of limitations for medical malpractice is only:
- Two years from the time the medical negligence occurred, or
- Two years from when you discovered or should have discovered the negligence.
If you miss this deadline, the law will bar you from ever filing a lawsuit.
You have a little more time to file the medical malpractice case if you are doing so on behalf of a child who is younger than eight years at the time that you are bringing the lawsuit. In this situation, you have only four years to bring the action.
Fraud and Bad Faith Can Extend the Deadline
You can have an additional two years from the point at which you discovered or should have discovered the injury if the healthcare provider or someone working for the provider committed fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation of fact to keep you from discovering the injury. Even in this situation, however, you only have seven years from the date of the negligence to file a lawsuit, unless the victim is a child who is younger than eight.
Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases in Florida
Successful plaintiffs can get compensation for their economic losses, like medical bills, future medical treatment, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, and disability in medical malpractice cases. They can also collect for intangible damages, like pain and suffering, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and the spouse’s claim for loss of consortium.
The value of your medical malpractice claim will depend on the facts of your case. Our medical malpractice lawyers in Titusville, FL cannot say how much you might receive without talking with you and investigating your situation.
Medical malpractice lawsuits are highly technical and complex, but with our experience, the Law Offices of Anidjar & Levine will work hard to get you all the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 1-800-747-3733 for a free, no obligation consultation.