If you have been injured as a result of a medical procedure or treatment, you may be wondering if you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. While every case is unique, there are some important things to know about medical malpractice in Florida. The Michles & Booth team is here to go over the basics of medical malpractice and the requirements needed to file a successful claim.
What Terms Should I Know?
There are some terms a person should familiarize themselves with before filing a claim.
- Standard of Care - This refers to the legally required “level of care” a healthcare professional must provide.
- Proximate Cause - This is a reference to the patient’s cause of injury.
- Affidavit - A written statement confirmed by affirmation or oath used as evidence in court.
- Informed Consent - A legal term meaning a patient agrees to the medical treatment once the physician explains the details.
- Medical Negligence - A doctor can be found guilty of medical negligence if they fail to uphold their duty of care. This form of negligence is broken down into two ways: errors of commission and errors of omission.
- Errors of Commission - This occurs when a healthcare professional does something they were not supposed to.
- Errors of Omission - This occurs when a healthcare professional fails to do something that they should’ve done.
What is Medical Malpractice?
In the state of Florida, medical malpractice is defined as a medical error that leads to the injury or death of a patient. Refer to Florida Statutes Chapter 766.102 for more information. This includes both intentional and negligent acts that result in harm to the patient. Medical malpractice can occur in any setting, from hospitals and clinics to nursing homes and private practices.
Statute of Limitations
According to Florida Statutes 95011(4)(b), the law states a person must file a medical malpractice claim within two years from the date they discovered the harm or two years from when they discovered the injury. The guardians of a child under the age of eight can file a medical malpractice lawsuit anytime before their eighth birthday.
There is an exception to the statute of limitations: fraud. If it is proven that there was fraud or attempts to misrepresent the facts about the injury, the time limit extends another two years from the time the injury was discovered. The deadline can actually be extended up to seven years, but a lawsuit cannot be filed if those seven years have passed.
While medical professionals can make mistakes, they’re still entitled to provide a standard duty of care. When they fail to do so, a person has the right to file a medical malpractice claim. Some common examples of medical malpractice include:
- Medication errors
- Surgery errors
- Anesthetic errors
- Birth injuries
- Improper treatment
- Medical equipment failure
- Pharmacy errors
- Laboratory mistakes
Damages refer to the harm a patient went through due to the healthcare professionals' negligence. The purpose of a medical malpractice claim is to recover damages.
Previously, Florida put “caps” on the number of damages a person can receive in a medical malpractice claim. The law stated that noneconomic damages could not exceed $500,000 per claimant. But, the cap was able to go up to $1 million if the healthcare provider’s negligence caused death, a vegetative state, or a catastrophic injury. In other cases involving nonpractitioner defendants, the cap for noneconomic damages was $750,000 or $1.5 million.
However, medical malpractice caps on noneconomic damages are now considered unconstitutional! These caps were found in violation of the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution. This ruling further applies to non-economic damages or any damages that will compensate for disability, pain + suffering, and disfigurement.
Some non-economic damages include:
- Loss of quality of life
- Mental anguish
- Chronic pain
How do I Build a Strong Case?
A person must prove many things to have a successful medical malpractice case. First, a person must prove that their healthcare provider breached the standard of care. In order to prove so, the Florida Malpractice Act requires patients to get another opinion from a doctor in the same field along with an affidavit.
Second, a person must prove that their injuries and condition directly resulted from the doctor's negligence. Once able to do so, a person must prove that their condition resulted in extensive medical expenses, lost wages and time from work, and tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain. There must also be evidence that proves the doctor-patient relationship was established, meaning the doctor knew and agreed to meet the patient’s terms of care.
Next, it must be proven that this was not a foreseeable event. If a person is suffering from soreness on their arm after arm surgery, they cannot sue as pain post-surgery in that region of the body is expected. After a person has proved the things listed above, it’s time to start the investigation.
This is where a medical malpractice attorney comes in. An attorney can start a detailed investigation into the case, including reviewing medical records, checking the background of the doctor, and building a strong argument. The attorney will most likely brief the client on their best options and what next steps they should pursue.
Speak With Our Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If you or a loved one have recently been neglected by a medical professional, we advise you to call our firm today. Our medical malpractice attorneys at Michles & Booth go to great lengths to get you the compensation you deserve. We handle nursing home abuse and pharmacy errors, and we’re located throughout the state of Florida in Pensacola, Tampa, Fort Walton Beach, and Crestview. When you’re ready, we’re here to help.
Contact our firm at (800) 848-6168 or fill out a consultation request form on our website.