If you suffered an injury or someone you love got hurt in a hospital or healthcare setting, you might wonder if the doctor or medical professional is to blame. If you believe that medical malpractice occurred, the first step you should take is to contact an experienced Florida medical malpractice attorney. These are complicated cases that are only possible to win with legal representation.
To win your case, your attorney will need to prove medical negligence. But how do you prove medical negligence in Florida?
In this brief overview of how to prove medical malpractice in Florida, Miami medical negligence lawyer Prosper Shaked discusses a few important details that every plaintiff should know. This includes what elements go into a successful malpractice claim, how long you have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida, and what types of evidence may help prove that you were a victim of medical negligence.
Miami medical malpractice lawyer Prosper Shaked discusses establishing liability in a medical negligence lawsuit against a negligent doctor, surgeon, hospital, or healthcare provider in Florida.
What Are the Elements of a Medical Negligence Lawsuit in Florida?
Every medical malpractice case in Florida is different. However, there are specific rules that apply to all malpractice lawsuits.
For example, the injury victim always has the “burden of proof.” This means the victim, also known as a plaintiff, must establish that the defendant (medical professional or institution) caused their injuries. They must show that their injuries were not due to natural causes or bad luck. After all, not all adverse medical outcomes are the result of medical negligence.
Because you, as the plaintiff, have the burden of proof, you and your legal team must show that specific facts or elements are true. No matter what type of doctor, procedure, or medical condition is involved in the case, your medical malpractice legal team must prove the following basic facts:
- There was a “duty of care.” Hospitals and physicians have a duty of care toward patients admitted for treatment. That means they must meet specific standards when providing medical care, such as ensuring that instruments have been sterilized before use or that surgical tools are not left inside the body after surgery.
- The professional breached this duty of care. Depending on the situation, there are numerous ways in which a healthcare provider potentially breaches or fails to meet the duty of care. Examples could include failures to diagnose, misdiagnoses, surgical errors, anesthesia mistakes, medication errors, or unreasonable delays before performing surgery.
- The patient was somehow harmed as a result. To have a medical malpractice case, you must have suffered some sort of harm due to your doctor’s breach of duty, such as nerve damage, loss of the use of a limb, or medical bills resulting from doctor negligence in Florida.
In Florida, you must show that the doctor or medical professional acted outside what another doctor in their field would have done. To prove this, you must have the sworn testimony of a medical expert who practices in the same field as the doctor you are suing. They must testify that the medical professional acted negligently or recklessly.
Florida’s Medical Malpractice Act
Florida’s Medical Malpractice Act is a state law that governs medical malpractice cases in Florida. Since 1985, Florida legislators have updated it several times. The act establishes a framework for medical malpractice claims in the state and aims to balance the rights of hurt patients with the need to protect healthcare providers from frivolous lawsuits.
The act establishes several important provisions, including:
- Mandatory pre-suit investigation: Before you and your Florida medical malpractice lawyer can file a lawsuit, your legal team must conduct a pre-suit investigation to determine a reasonable basis for the claim. This includes obtaining an opinion from a medical expert who practices in the same area of medicine as the defendant’s healthcare provider.
- Limitations on damages: The act limits the amount of damages awarded to patients in a medical malpractice lawsuit. These limits vary depending on the type of damages sought, but they are generally designed to prevent excessive damage awards that could drive up healthcare costs for everyone.
- Statute of limitations: You must file your medical malpractice claim in Florida within two years of the date of the alleged malpractice or two years after discovering the injury.
- Comparative negligence: Florida follows a comparative negligence standard, which means that if the plaintiff is found to be partially responsible for their injuries, the damages awarded will be reduced proportionally.
How Do You Prove Medical Malpractice Caused an Injury, Illness, or Death?
When you suffer an injury or illness due to a doctor’s medical error, you may recover financial compensation by filing a lawsuit against a hospital, doctor, or other parties responsible for your injuries. However, medical malpractice lawsuits follow unique rules and timelines that set them apart from other personal injury cases, such as car accident claims or slip and fall lawsuits.
For example, you and your medical malpractice legal team must show how your doctor deviated from usual, acceptable standards of care. This usually requires an in-depth investigation into the patient’s medical records, the treating physician’s background, and safety protocols at a hospital, clinic, or private practice. Medical experts can also provide indispensable information that may help to prove your case.
Investigating Medical Negligence
A thorough investigation is critical to proving that medical mistakes or negligence caused your illness or injuries. Your attorney can obtain medical records and coordinate with appropriately qualified medical experts whose opinions can support and strengthen your case.
Through an extensive investigation into medical malpractice claims, your lawyer will uncover valuable forms of evidence that can strengthen your case. This evidence includes, but is not limited to, the following items and sources of data:
- Medical billing and invoices
- Notices or letters from your doctor or other care providers
- Notices or letters from your health insurance company
- Opinions from medical experts who possess relevant expertise and credentials
- Personal notes or records that you might have kept regarding your care (such as notes about side effects you were experiencing or appointments you scheduled)
- Prescription slips, pill bottles, or other physical evidence
- Scans, photographs, X-rays, or other medical images, where available
Damages You Can Pursue Through a Medical Malpractice Claim
If you believe that a healthcare provider breached their standard of care and caused harm, you may pursue compensatory damages through a medical malpractice claim. To do so, a medical expert must validate your claim and provide evidence to support your case.
If they do this and you have substantial evidence backing up your medical malpractice claim, you can pursue compensation for your injuries.
You and your Florida medical negligence legal team can pursue two types of damages: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages cover medical bills and lost wages, while non-economic damages are more intangible and can include pain, suffering, and inconvenience. In Florida, there is a statutory “cap” on non-economic damages. This means that the amount you can recover is limited to $500,000 if your claim is against a medical practitioner like a doctor or surgeon.
Medical Negligence and Healthcare Professionals
Doctors and surgeons are not the only healthcare professionals that can be guilty of medical negligence. Other healthcare professionals that may act negligently or recklessly include:
- Physician’s assistants
- Orthodontists and dentists
- Pharmacy technicians
- EMTs and paramedics
- In-home health aides
- Alternative medicine providers
Individual healthcare practitioners are not the only ones responsible for negligence in a court of law. In medical malpractice cases involving large hospitals or healthcare providers, the hospital may also be deemed responsible and required to pay damages for medical negligence.
For example, if a hospital fails to maintain its equipment properly, and a patient is harmed, the hospital may be held liable for its failure to maintain its equipment. Similarly, if a hospital fails to staff its emergency room or other critical areas adequately and a patient is harmed, the hospital may be liable for its failure to provide adequate staffing.
Overall, hospitals must provide a safe and appropriate standard of care to their patients. If they fail to do so, they may be held responsible for medical negligence.
How Long Do You Have to Sue Your Doctor for Medical Errors in Florida?
A rule called the “statute of limitations” creates a deadline for filing your medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida. The Florida medical malpractice statute of limitations is two years, which is how long you have from the time of injury to sue your doctor or other parties.
An exception known as the “discovery rule” allows extra time to sue when an injury is not discovered until many months or years have already passed. However, acting as early as possible is in your best interests while vital evidence is still well-preserved.
Many injured patients wait too long to speak to a lawyer about their case. During this time, eyewitnesses forget crucial details, evidence gets misplaced, and it becomes more challenging to build your case.
However, call our law firm even if you believe you missed the time window or waited too long. We want to review your case and help you explore your legal options. You may have more time than you think!
Ask a Miami Medical Malpractice Lawyer if You Have a Case
Medical malpractice is an exceptionally complex area of the law in Florida. If a medical error caused your injuries, choose an experienced Miami medical malpractice attorney qualified to handle your case. For a free legal consultation, call Prosper Shaked Accident Injury Attorneys PA at (305) 694-2676, or contact us online today.