If you live in Florida and you have concerns about medical malpractice, you are not alone. Medical malpractice is alarmingly common, and errors related to diagnosis and treatment are among the leading causes of death in the United States.
In cases of medical malpractice, Florida law entitles patients and their families to just compensation. Hospitals, doctors, and other health care providers carry medical malpractice insurance coverage, and recovering just compensation typically involves negotiating an insurance settlement. In this article, we cover:
- What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Florida?
- How Do You Know if You Have a Claim?
- How Long Do You Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim in Florida?
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice in Florida?
Just because a doctor makes a mistake does not necessarily mean that they have committed medical malpractice. Doctors have extremely difficult jobs, and sometimes they need to make decisions based on incomplete information. In some cases, they also have a limited amount of time to act, as any delays in treatment could lead to permanent or fatal complications.
With that said, many mistakes do rise to the level of medical malpractice. In Florida, whether a mistake constitutes medical malpractice is judged based upon health care providers’ “standard of care.”
The “Standard of Care” Florida Doctors Owe Their Patients
All health care providers owe a “standard of care” to their patients under Florida law. Section 766.102 of the Florida Statutes provides that in a medical malpractice case:
“[T]he claimant shall have the burden of proving . . . that the alleged actions of the health care provider represented a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care . . . . 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.”
The key language here is that doctors and other providers must provide care at a level considered acceptable by “reasonably prudent similar health care providers.” Basically, if a skilled doctor would not have made the same mistake under the same circumstances, it can give rise to a claim for medical malpractice.
10 Common Examples of Medical Malpractice
The best way to understand what constitutes medical malpractice is to look at some of the most common examples. Medical malpractice can take many different forms. While each case requires an assessment of the particular facts and circumstances involved, some examples of mistakes that frequently rise to the level of medical malpractice include:
1. Failure to Diagnose
Today, health care providers in Florida have an extraordinary number of diagnostic tools at their disposal. From physical examinations to computerized tomography (CT) scans and blood work to X-rays, doctors have the tools they need to diagnose all types of medical conditions. When a doctor fails to diagnose a patient’s condition despite having the ability to do so, the patient (or the patient’s family) will often have a claim for medical malpractice.
2. Delayed Diagnosis
Delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose a patient’s condition on time to prevent complications, is also a common form of medical malpractice. A delay sufficient to give rise to a medical malpractice claim can be minutes, hours, weeks, or months depending on the circumstances involved. Delayed diagnosis of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other conditions can have long-term (if not life-threatening) consequences, and the financial and non-financial costs can be substantial.
Misdiagnosis of a patient’s health condition can be even more dangerous than a failure to diagnose or delayed diagnosis. Not only does a misdiagnosis mean the patient goes without necessary treatment for their condition, but it also means that the patient receives treatment for a condition they do not have. Misdiagnoses can result from a variety of different factors, from misinterpreting a patient’s symptoms to failing to order necessary tests.
4. Failure to Treat
Once a health care provider diagnoses a patient’s condition, the provider should administer appropriate medical care. While a provider does not necessarily need to administer treatment immediately if a patient is in stable condition, providers generally should not wait any longer than necessary to administer care. There are far too many cases of patients suffering serious or fatal complications while waiting for treatment—and these are cases that health care providers can and generally should prevent.
5. Anesthesia Errors
Anesthesia errors can be extremely dangerous. Various risk factors can increase the risks associated with anesthesia (such as high blood pressure, allergies, and drug use), and health care providers must take these factors into account on a case-by-case basis. Administering too much anesthesia, administering too little anesthesia, and failing to monitor anesthetized patients are examples of mistakes that can support claims for medical malpractice.
6. Medication Errors
In addition to anesthesia errors, other medication errors can present a variety of risks for patients. Overdoses and underdoses in medical settings can support claims for medical malpractice, as can prescribing too much or too little of a medication, prescribing multiple medications that have contraindications, or prescribing a medication to which a patient is allergic.
7. Emergency Room Errors
No matter how crowded and busy an emergency room (ER) may be, ER doctors must still provide treatment consistent with the standard of care to which patients are entitled. Hospitals must conduct appropriate triage as well, and they must avoid record mix-ups and other administrative errors that can result in patients receiving inappropriate or inadequate care.
8. Surgical Errors
Many different types of surgical errors can result in harm to patients. Wrong-side and wrong-site surgeries are entirely inexcusable, but they still happen. Improper use of surgical tools and robotic surgery devices can lead to internal injuries and other complications. Leaving objects inside patients’ bodies can have various serious, painful, and potentially life-threatening effects.
9. Specialist Malpractice
Under Florida’s medical malpractice law, specialists are held to provide a level of care similar to that provided by other specialists within their field. When cardiologists, OB-GYNs, psychiatrists, radiologists, and other specialists make mistakes, affected patients and their loved ones should consult with Florida medical malpractice lawyers about their legal rights.
10. Failure to Monitor
Failure to monitor patients who have received treatment and medications can also constitute medical malpractice. When a patient requires monitoring, providing this monitoring can be just as important as providing other forms of care. Failure to monitor can involve sending a patient home too soon, failing to follow up with a patient post-treatment, or failing to check in on patients receiving inpatient care.
How Do You Know if You Have a Claim?
Since not all mistakes rise to the level of medical malpractice, how do you know if you have a claim for just compensation? If you have any concerns about medical malpractice, there are some steps you should try to take right away. The steps involved in determining if you have a medical malpractice claim and protecting your legal rights include:
1. Seek Treatment from a New Doctor
First and foremost, if you have concerns about the quality of your medical care, you should seek treatment from a new doctor at a different health care facility. You do not have to (and should not) go back to the provider who you believe may have committed malpractice.
When seeking treatment, be sure to explain your concerns in detail—or at least to the best of your ability. If you have any records from your prior treatment, you can provide these to your new doctor. In any case, let your new doctor know that you previously saw someone else who you believe provided substandard care. If you aren’t sure where to go for treatment, we are more than happy to provide you with a referral.
2. Contact a Florida Medical Malpractice Law Firm
To seek just compensation for medical malpractice, you will need to engage a Florida medical malpractice law firm. Filing a successful claim is not something that you can do on your own. At Silva & Silva, we provide free consultations for all medical malpractice cases, and we do not charge any fees or costs unless we succeed in recovering just compensation.
This is known as “contingency fee” representation. In short, you only pay if you win. If we can negotiate a settlement (with your approval) or obtain a verdict on your behalf, our legal fees will be calculated as a percentage of your award. You will never have to pay anything out of pocket.
3. Your Law Firm Will Analyze Your Case
There are several steps involved in analyzing a possible medical malpractice case. When you choose Silva & Silva, our personal injury attorneys will speak with you, review your (or your loved one’s) medical records, and consult with top medical experts. We also have two board-certified physicians in-house, one of whom is an attorney, who is heavily involved in every medical malpractice case we handle.
In addition to determining if you have a claim for medical malpractice, we will also determine how much you are entitled to recover. This is an important factor, as medical malpractice cases can be costly to pursue. We will make sure it is worth your time to pursue a claim; and, since we will cover the costs of pursuing your claim while it is pending, you can feel confident knowing that we firmly believe in our ability to help you recover.
4. Make an Informed Decision about Filing a Claim
Based on our analysis of your claim, you can then make an informed decision about whether to move forward. If you wish to move forward, we will work diligently to pursue just compensation on your behalf. We will deal with your health care provider’s insurance company directly, and we will take your claim to court if necessary.
How Long Do You Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim in Florida?
The final factor to consider when determining whether you can pursue a medical malpractice claim is the amount of time you have to file. Under Florida’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims, you have two years from the date you learn of your provider’s malpractice in most cases. But, it is possible for the limitations period to be longer (i.e., in the case of a child patient) or shorter (due to Florida’s statute of repose) in certain circumstances; and, in any case, the best thing you can do is consult with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
Speak with a Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney for Free
Do you have questions about filing a medical malpractice claim in Florida? If so, we encourage you to get in touch. To speak with a medical malpractice attorney at Silva & Silva in confidence, call 305-445-0011 or request a free consultation online now.