A study by NiceRX found that Florida was the third-highest state for the number of medical malpractice reports filed over ten years (2012-2022), resulting in 11,410 reports. Nearly one billion dollars was paid in 2021 to close 2,680 medical malpractice claims according to a report prepared by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR). Of the closed claims, nearly one-third were filed on behalf of a patient who died.
What is medical malpractice?
According to the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys, “medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient”. A medical professional may be found negligent if they failed to properly diagnose, provided improper treatment or aftercare, or failed to adequately manage their patient’s health.
How do you prove medical negligence?
Three factors must be present in order to prove medical negligence.
- Violation of standard of care. The Florida Statutes state the “prevailing professional standard of care for a given health care provider shall be 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 health care providers”. If a medical professional fails to provide the same level of care as a same type of provider working under similar conditions, they may be found in violation of the standard of care.
- The injury was caused by negligence. A patient must be able to prove that significant damages were sustained due to the negligence of the medical provider.
- The injury caused significant damages. For a medical malpractice lawsuit to be viable, a claimant must prove that the medical provider’s negligence resulted in significant damages that could include death, disability, life-altering pain, loss of income, substantial suffering and hardship, and past, present, and future medical bills.
The Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice
The five most common types of medical malpractice are misdiagnosis, childbirth injuries, medication errors, anesthesia errors, and surgical errors.
- Misdiagnosis. Although medical misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose are common, not all diagnostic errors are the result of medical negligence. To prove medical negligence in diagnostic errors, a patient must prove that a doctor-patient relationship existed, the doctor violated the standard of care when making the diagnosis and that the misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose led to the patient’s injury.
- Childbirth Injuries. Injuries caused by a medical provider to a fetus during pregnancy or to a child during childbirth are known as childbirth injuries. Medical negligence may be proved if a medical provider’s actions directly caused injuries or they failed to provide adequate treatment, which could have prevented the injuries. A failure to diagnose congenital defects may also result in a medical malpractice claim. Severe childbirth injuries include brain injuries, which can lead to seizure disorders or cerebral palsy, fractured bones, and partial or full paralysis.
- Medication Errors. As one of the most common forms of medical malpractice, medication errors can take several forms. Some of the most common medication errors involve a mistake on the initial prescription, inappropriate administration of a drug, failure to notify a patient of potentially dangerous drug interactions and other warnings, improper dosage instructions, or medication being given to the wrong patient in a hospital setting.
- Anesthesia Errors. Although anesthesia mistakes are less common than surgical mistakes, they are often more dangerous to patients. An error by an anesthesiologist may result in permanent injury, brain damage, and death. The most common anesthesia errors involve a failure to check a patient’s medical history, failure to inform a patient of preoperative procedures, failure to check their vital signs during a procedure, giving too much anesthesia, improper intubation, and using defective equipment.
- Surgical Errors. When surgeons make surgical errors they may operate on the wrong body part, leave surgical equipment in a patient’s body, or puncture an organ or blood vessel. This type of medical negligence can result in life-changing injuries or death to the patient.
Why is suing for medical negligence in Florida difficult?
Proving a medical malpractice case is a complex process, often requiring intimate knowledge of medical procedures, models, and real-life anatomical illustrations to explain complex medical issues. Making the issue of accurately depicting and then proving a medical malpractice claim more difficult, are a few legal issues unique to Florida.
- In Florida, only certain family members are allowed to make claims for a wrongful death caused by medical malpractice. Only a spouse or child under the age of twenty-five can claim pain and suffering and other non-economic damages for a wrongful death caused by the medical negligence of doctors or hospitals. . A decedent’s adult children, those twenty-five and older, or partner who has shared a life, but never married, are precluded from claiming mental pain and suffering.
- Public hospitals and their employees are protected under “sovereign immunity”. In most cases, this means that a single claimant can recover no more than $200,000 against the hospital or doctor and that multiple claimants’ combined recovery against an immune entity is capped at $300,000, regardless of the number of claimants. Those individuals that believe they are owed more in damages would have to petition the Florida Legislature through a complex legal process.
- An individual must file a medical malpractice lawsuit within two years from when they know or should have known of an injury. For injuries that could not be discovered at the same time as the medical care that caused the injury, a patient has no more than four years from the initial care to file a lawsuit. Those deadlines are applicable to young children injured by medical malpractice, with the exception that children are allowed to file a claim up on or before their eighth birthday even if the deadline would have otherwise passed.
- There is a “pre-suit investigation” requirement in Florida. A medical professional must be hired to testify about how a reasonable medical professional with the same license would behave in similar medical circumstances and how the potential defendant deviated from that standard of care. Both sides have ninety days to investigate, during which the potential defendant may choose to make a settlement offer, reject the claim, or offer to arbitrate.
Call a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
The medical malpractice lawyers of Panter, Panter, and Sampedro have successfully handled a wide range of medical malpractice cases. The firm has a critical care nurse and a physician on staff to assist our lawyers in accurately assessing injuries and arranging for the best medical care available. From computer-generated re-creations of surgical procedures to real-life depictions of operations, each medical malpractice attorney on a case works hard to make even the most complicated medical procedure understandable to a jury. Speak to a dedicated medical malpractice attorney today at 305-662-6178.