When a patient seeks medical attention from a healthcare provider, they entrust their well-being to that person’s knowledge, expertise, and professional insight. While doctors are reticent to guarantee results, they are charged with doing their best to ensure successful outcomes. Despite the importance of the healthcare provider’s role, many clinicians, surgeons, pharmacists, etc., make medical errors that result in adverse patient outcomes.
You may be entitled to damages if you’ve been injured or your recovery was impeded by medical malpractice. Florida medical malpractice law is complicated, however, and many personal injury lawyers decline medical malpractice cases. The Pompano Beach, FL law firm of Long, Jean & Wechsler does handle medical malpractice cases. We will review your case in a free consultation. If we determine that you have a viable claim, we can represent you on a contingency basis.
Understanding the Elements of Medical Malpractice
Not all adverse health patient outcomes are the result of medical malpractice. In many cases, the responsible healthcare providers properly apply treatments, but the results are less than optimal.
During your free one-on-one case review, an attorney will determine whether or not the following malpractice elements are present.
1. Duty of Care
Under Florida law, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers have a duty of care for their patients. This means that they must use their knowledge, abilities, and resources to treat individuals in their care and to provide them with the information they require to make informed decisions about their healthcare.
2. Breach of Duty
For there to be a viable medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant breached their duty of care in some way. Examples of breaches of duty include administering a treatment improperly, prescribing a medication that has a known interaction with a prescription the patient is taking, or misinforming the patient about the risks and benefits of a specific treatment. It’s important to emphasize that physicians often have different opinions about which approach a clinician should take with regard to the same patient. In these cases, it’s necessary to establish that the defendant pursued a course of action that their peers would have considered to be ill advised or ineffective.
The plaintiff must be able to prove that the breach of duty had a negative outcome: a new medical issue, a decline in health, slower recovery, etc. This often requires the testimony of other healthcare providers to establish that the decline in health resulted from negligent actions.
For there to be a viable claim, the patient must be able to show damages. If you’ve suffered an injury at the hands of a healthcare provider, you have suffered damages. A professional medical malpractice lawyer can calculate your economic and non-economic damages (pain and suffering) for you.
If your case meets the above criteria, your LJW attorney can help with filing a medical malpractice claim. Call today for a free consultation.
Common Examples of Medical Malpractice
Unfortunately, because the healthcare industry is so enormous and multi-tiered, there are many opportunities for errors. Here are some of the most common types of medical malpractice claims:
- Medical implements or materials left inside of a patient during surgery
- Failure to inform the patient of medical information
- Misprescribing medicine
- Improper dosages
- Anesthesia accidents
- Removing the wrong organ or body part
- Post-surgery sepsis
- Improper treatment
Doctors and other healthcare providers will provide patients with a list of options. This should describe all likely outcomes, possible risks, and expenses. They are also responsible for the proper execution of any treatment they administer. Many medical malpractice cases originate from a failure in one or both of these areas.
Damages in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
The state of Florida statutorily caps damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. However, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled that compensable damage caps in medical malpractice cases are unconstitutional. This frees medical malpractice attorneys’ hands to pursue damages commensurate with their clients’ injuries. Damages are divided into three categories. Economic damages and non-economic damages are considered compensable in nature, while punitive damages are meant to penalize a healthcare provider for malice or egregious errors.
This type of damages compensates the plaintiff for current and future expenses. They include the cost of additional medical treatment resulting from the error, lost income due to the medical mistake, and any other financial cost the patient incurs due to the malpractice.
Also referred to as “pain and suffering,” non-economic damages seek to compensate the plaintiff for intangible expenses, such as physical pain, mental anguish, and the inconvenience caused by the incident (i.e., additional procedures, follow-ups, extended recovery times, etc.).
In cases where the court awards punitive damages, they are capped at three times the amount of compensable damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
Personal injury damage calculations are a complex matter. Medical malpractice attorneys hire expert witnesses to assist in tabulating damages and preparing a demand letter for the insurance company.
Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Cases
The statute of limitations is the time limit to file a lawsuit against the defendant. For most personal injury lawsuits, the statute of limitations is four years from the date of the accident. However, for medical malpractice cases, it works a little differently. The statute of limitations is four years, but the case must be filed within two years of the discover of the injury.
For instance, when a patient is first recovering from surgery, they may not realize that the surgeon left a surgical needle inside of them. If the needle is discovered in an x-ray six months later, the patient must file within two years of that discovery — so approximately 30 months after the surgery. However, the patient only has four years in total, regardless of the date that the malpractice was discovered. For wrongful death cases related to malpractice, the statute of limitations is two years from the date of death.
What Should I Do if I Am the Victim of Medical Malpractice?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for steps to take after the discovery of a medical malpractice incident. However, the following information may provide you with some guidance until you can discuss your claim with one of our attorneys.
- Do Not Delay Medical Treatment – It’s essential that you put your personal health first. If you suspect that your healthcare provider was negligent, consider seeking care from another doctor.
- Keep a Journal – You should document everything you can recall from the events leading up to the incident, the malpractice incident, and everything going forward. Include all medical appointments, medications that you’ve been taking, the level of pain, how you became aware of the malpractice, etc.
- Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney as Soon as Possible – Personal injury claims can be extremely complicated. Without an attorney, you stand a chance of not recovering any damages for your injuries. While all doctors are required to be financially responsible for medical malpractice, not all doctors carry insurance. This can make it more difficult to pursue damages. LJW can hold doctors accountable for malpractice, whether or not they carry coverage.
Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
If you believe that you’re the victim of medical malpractice, the best course of action is to contact Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A., or a medical malpractice law firm in your area. We offer free consultations and will answer your specific questions. In the meantime, these area some of the most common questions asked by medical malpractice victims.
Will I Have to Sue My Healthcare Provider?
Most medical malpractice cases involve filing a lawsuit. However, that does not necessarily mean that it will end in court. Most of the time, the defendant will settle to avoid the unpredictability and publicity of a trial. However, if the defendant will not come to a full and fair settlement, LJW is prepared to pursue damages through litigation.
What if I’m Partially Responsible for My Treatment Plan Not Working?
There are cases where the patient fails to follow their treatment plan, which can contribute to an unfavorable outcome. Whether or not the patient is still entitled to damages in these situations depends on their percentage of liability. Under Florida’s comparative negligence law, plaintiffs can recover the percentage of their damages that they aren’t responsible for. For example, if the court decides that you’ve missed enough physical therapy sessions to make you 20% responsible for your damages, you can still recover up to 80%.
Can I Sue My Healthcare Provider if They Don’t Have Med Mal Insurance?
Under Florida medical malpractice law, doctors are required to carry medical malpractice insurance or prove they have the assets to be considered financially responsible. In either case, Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. can pursue damages from the at-fault party.
Pompano Beach, FL Medical Malpractice Law Firm
Medical malpractice injuries have the potential to be life-changing. If you are the victim of medical negligence, you’re entitled to compensation. Long, Jean & Wechsler, P.A. will represent you on a contingency basis. That means that you will not pay out of pocket for our professional legal services. Contact us today!