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Your Guide to Medical Malpractice

When we visit a doctor or another medical professional, we trust their judgment because they’re experts in the field. Therefore, it can be disconcerting when something goes wrong. Sadly, medical malpractice is still an issue (hence this guide here today!). At The Injury Firm, we’ve seen the devastating impact of medical malpractice. Not only does it affect the patient, but it also affects the lives of those around them. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a misdiagnosis or another issue, we have the information you need to move forward with a claim/lawsuit.

1. What’s Medical Malpractice?

In Florida and right around the country, those with a license to practice medicine and treat patients have a duty of care towards everyone who walks through the door. Only professionals who are skilled and competent are allowed to work with patients, but there are times where these professionals violate the medical standard of care. Normally, this is through poor judgment or negligence as opposed to a blatant act against the standard of care.

Regardless of which, a breach in duty can cause tremendous damage and sometimes even death. In this case, it’s important to hold the guilty party responsible. You can do this with the assistance of a medical malpractice attorney.

2. Examples of Medical Malpractice

In this next section, we’re going go through some of the most common examples of medical malpractice. If you recognize your own situation in this section, we recommend getting in touch with The Injury Firm today.

Misdiagnosis

Firstly, medical professionals are asked to use their experience and knowledge to make a judgment based on symptoms. While some mistakes are forgivable, missing key signs for serious injuries or illnesses has the potential to be fatal. Unfortunately, we’ve seen misdiagnosis where patients don’t get the care that they need despite having multiple sclerosis, cancer, other serious health issues.

Elsewhere, it might be that a doctor didn’t treat an infection correctly or didn’t spot a medical condition. In some cases, the doctor potentially could have prevented a stroke or heart attack with better advice and care. Of course, misdiagnosis can also lead to incorrect prescriptions. Suddenly, a patient is on the wrong medication and this has a double effect. Firstly, you’re not getting the medication you need for the real problem and it gradually gets worse. Secondly, the medication you are taking will have an effect on the body - the more powerful the medication, the more side effects it brings.

With something like cancer, every single day is critical because early treatment can increase the chances of overcoming the illness significantly. The longer somebody goes without a cancer diagnosis, the more time it has to grow and spread around the body. If a doctor doesn’t recognize the illness at the first opportunity, this has obvious health consequences, but it also causes financial and emotional stress.

Anesthesia Mistakes

In case you aren’t aware, there are three ways that anesthesia can be administered. As well as a general anesthetic, a patient can undergo a regional or local anesthetic. Depending on the problem, doctors will choose between the three options. While a general anesthetic will put you to sleep, and this is necessary for some procedures, a local anesthetic will numb a certain part of the body. Anesthesiologists have lots of experience in this area, but they’re just as prone to mistakes as any other medical professional.

There’s a problem known to the medical world, and it’s called ‘anesthesia awareness’; this is where a patient either wakes up or can feel what’s happening during surgery. In cases where anesthesia is incorrectly administered, the patient may be able to claim for compensation since this is a form of negligence. In truth, negligence can manifest in several ways. This includes:

  • Poor vital sign monitoring
  • Incorrect drug choice
  • Giving drugs that aren’t compatible
  • Ignoring allergies
  • No intubation
  • Using faulty or damaged equipment
  • Using anesthesia too late
  • Not reacting to vital sign changes

Hospital Malpractice

As a medical malpractice attorney, we sometimes see cases of hospital malpractice. As the name suggests, this is where malpractice occurs within the hospital environment. In our experience, every situation is different and the cases that follow are therefore unique. While some cases are against a specific medical professional, others will claim against an individual and a hospital.

For example, hospitals need to place just as much emphasis on recruitment as any other business (perhaps even more). If they hire somebody who is incompetent or doesn’t carry the right qualifications, they’re prone to a legal case when something inevitably goes wrong. If a doctor lies on their resume, and the hospital doesn’t check, it will be liable for any damages caused by this professional.

In addition to this, we’ve seen cases where the conduct of hospital staff causes the hospital itself to get sued. We’ve looked at misdiagnosis, but this also includes patient neglect, refusing to offer treatment, leaving a patient with little care, using medical equipment incorrectly, not passing a patient on to a specialist when required, and performing surgery that either wasn’t consented to or was unnecessary.

While on this note, we should say that independent contractors working at the hospital aren’t under the control of the hospital itself. Therefore, you won’t have the option to sue the hospital if your accident was caused by an independent contractor. Also, we understand that many doctors in a hospital are essentially freelance workers as opposed to employees of the hospital itself. In this case, the only way to sue the hospital is if these individuals are under-qualified, under-experienced, or if they were actually under the guidance of the hospital.

In recent times, hospitals have learned this rule and ensured that all independent contractors inform patients of the contract. For example, they will tell all patients that they aren’t employees of the hospital. If this status is not made clear through communication or signage, the hospital could be liable for accidents.

Negligence

As mentioned previously, negligence can show in many different ways. To recover compensation, you need to work with a medical malpractice attorney to prove that one or more medical professionals breached the duty of care. As an example, one case recently saw a patient sue because the doctor wasn’t listening to the complaints and symptoms of the individual. When a patient lists their symptoms, doctors need to listen closely to correctly diagnose and treat. When a doctor doesn’t listen, there’s no way they can diagnose properly, and this can cause illnesses to get worse.

Another example would be making the wrong diagnosis or not linking symptoms to a specific illness. If the case is incredibly difficult and several doctors working together can’t diagnose a condition, this is very different from having obvious symptoms and it clearly leading to one illness. In the latter, an attorney will likely call for expert testimony to prove that the medical professional missed clear and obvious signs that a medical problem existed.

Next, we’ve seen cases where the professional didn’t look at medical histories. In this industry, the medical history is a key piece of information that can make diagnosis much easier (and more accurate!). To help inform a decision, doctors need to look at the medical histories of the individual as well as the family. It might be that a health issue is prevalent in a given family and the problem is hereditary; without this information, the doctor wouldn’t know to check for the problem. If a doctor doesn’t check this information, patients have a claim if the issue got worse as a direct result of this negligence.

As a result of the poor reading of symptoms, doctors can order the wrong tests and examinations. Not only can this make a patient worse, but it also wastes time that could be spent on the right tests and treatments. Again, an expert witness will explain the difference between your doctor and what a competent professional would have done in the same situation. They will show that your injuries could have been prevented with better decisions, decisions that were possible with the information given.

Lastly, another form of negligence is a poor reading of test results. Even when a doctor orders the right tests, problems can still arise when the results aren’t interpreted correctly. If a doctor didn’t interpret test results correctly and this caused more health issues for yourself, you may be entitled to compensation.

Medical Equipment Errors

Every year, equipment and technology available to help doctors are both improving. Despite this, there’s still a shocking number of patients around the United States who are injured or killed as a result of equipment misuse or failure. Some cases will see the hospital liable for the error, and others will see the manufacturer responsible. For example, the manufacturer is normally responsible for inadequate warnings, manufacturing defects, and defects in the design. When these occur, the hospital staff are often just as much a victim as the patient.

If the equipment is fine but injuries are caused by a lack of training, tiredness, recklessness, or a lack of experience, this is where the medical professional and hospital are liable together.

Emergency Room Errors

As we all know, the people working in an emergency room deserve huge respect and admiration. Normally, it’s a chaotic environment where quick decisions and reactions are required. Thanks to training and experience, medical professionals in this area still need to maintain the highest levels of care for all patients. Whether it’s 1pm or 1am, anybody walking through the door should get the same standard of care. If you’ve experienced an injury or accident in the emergency room, compensation could be available through a lawsuit.

Cases include:

  • Heart attack caused by a poor diagnosis of cardiac issues
  • Poor reading of test results or x-rays
  • Failure to recognize symptoms of post-op infections
  • Poor diagnosis of appendicitis, blood clots, pulmonary embolisms, or aneurysms

Post-Op Negligence

Finally, medical malpractice can also occur after an operation. Even if the operation itself was a success, postoperative care is just as important if you want to recover properly and live a happy and healthy life. Professionals need to carefully monitor all patients after surgery both while in the hospital and with check-up appointments once the patient is home. Without the right care and attention, it’s possible to encounter internal bleeding, infections, sepsis, UTIs (urinary tract infections), necrotizing fasciitis, organ perforation, respiratory infections, blood infections, and more.

Other Medical Malpractice Examples

Other examples of medical malpractice and medical negligence include medication error malpractice, dental malpractice, chiropractic malpractice, OBGYN malpractice, cosmetic surgery malpractice, surgical error malpractice, psychiatric malpractice, orthopedic malpractice, and hospital vicarious liability.

Before we move on, we do want to address medical procedure errors because this is another problem we’ve seen in Florida. Sometimes, mistakes are made during a procedure and it can cause all sorts of problems for the patient. Examples include:

  • Plastic surgery error
  • Chemotherapy treatment error
  • Back operation error
  • Organ transport error

In addition to this, there’s also a small possibility of retaining foreign objects after surgery. If this has happened to you, reach out to the experts at The Injury Firm now.

3. The Importance of Expert Testimonies

As you can imagine, not many jurors or judges will have extensive knowledge of the body and the medical industry. With this in mind, neither is expected to learn the intricacies of the specific health problem, surgery, the cardiac system, or whatever else the case may involve. Therefore, expert testimony will help with the case. For jurors and judges, expert testimonies will help in two ways.

Firstly, they will explain how a competent medical professional would have acted under similar circumstances to those found in your case. Secondly, based on this, they will pass judgment as to whether the medical professional performed competently or not.

Your medical malpractice attorney will explain that no claim is possible until you have served a special notice to the hospital/medical professional. Why is this important? Because this notice will contain a document from your expert testimony essentially validating your claim. This expert testimonial will work in a similar area to the guilty party and they will testify that your claim has valid grounds, so an expert witness plays an important role right from the very beginning.

4. Recovering Damages

You’ve experienced medical malpractice, but what damages can you claim against the hospital or medical professional? This is a great question, and the answer is broken down into three sections:

  • Economic
  • Non-economic
  • Punitive

For the first two, they relate directly to the medical malpractice and are sometimes categorized together as ‘compensatory damages’. On the one hand, we have economic damages, and this includes tangible, financial losses such as lost wages and medical bills. In more serious cases, it might include funeral bills and expenses of this nature. On the other, non-economic damages cover the emotional side which means pain and suffering and similar damages.

Meanwhile, punitive damages refer to the hospital, medical facility, or medical professional more than the victim. Here, you’re pushing for the negligent party to be punished in some way. As you can imagine, this isn’t available for every medical malpractice case. However, it is possible when the damages are extreme or the actions from the hospital or medical professional were intentional.

Ultimately, the size and extent of your lawsuit will depend on the nature of the case. In Florida, some laws limit compensation. For example, those against a practitioner cannot exceed $500,000 for non-economic damages. If the case is against a non-practitioner without a license, the amount you can recover extends to $750,000. If you’re claiming on behalf of a family member who died or has been left in a vegetative state, families can claim $1 million.

As you can see, the compensation you pursue will all depend on the case in question. While serious cases can push the limits discussed, others will fall short of these numbers. The best course of action is to speak with a medical malpractice attorney since they have experience and knowledge in this field. They will know how to pursue compensation for misdiagnosis and other issues, how the system works, and the mistakes to avoid.

At The Injury Firm, we always push for a compensation package that’s fair for both you and your loved ones. We will consider the following:

Medical Bills - If the injuries weren’t your fault, you shouldn’t be left to deal with the medical bills. To prevent having to make a second claim later down the line, we will chase compensation for both existing and future medical expenses. This might include doctor visits, stays in hospital, assistive devices, prescription drugs, and physical therapy.

Loss of Wages - Sometimes, the medical malpractice is so severe that the victim is forced into taking time away from work. In this case, you can collect compensation to cover living expenses that otherwise would have been covered with wages.

Pain and Suffering - As an example of non-economic damage, this is especially prevalent in medical negligence claims because it’s unexpected and the consequences are severe. Covering both physical and emotional pain, medical malpractice cases can often cause frustration, pain, depression, fear, anxiety, and other issues.

Loss of Consortium - Sadly, a small number of medical malpractice cases are brought about because a spouse has been left alone after the death of a partner. In this case, the surviving spouse may have a loss of aid, assistance, and even companionship, and this is where the loss of consortium comes in. If it was a minor who died, parents can claim for loss of affection, love, and companionship. On the flip side, children can claim for loss of aid, assistance, and companionship after losing one/both parents.

Other Damages - Depending on the claim, we could also consider compensation for loss of parental support, loss of life enjoyment, or disfigurement/disability. If the act of the medical professional was malicious rather than negligent, we will seek punitive damages as opposed to just economic and non-economic damages. As we’ve seen already, this is designed to punish the guilty party and prevent others from following in their shoes.

5. Statute of Limitations

In law, certain criminal actions have a statute of limitations; essentially, this means that victims cannot take legal action after a specific period has passed. The statute of limitations for medical malpractice can vary from one location to another, but Florida laws are set to two years. You need to start legal proceedings within two years of either of the following two dates:

  • The incident itself
  • The discovery of the incident

For example, those with foreign objects in the body after surgery have two years from the discovery of the incident since there may be a delay from the first to the second date. Interestingly, the statute of repose in Florida says that no patient can sue a health care provider after four years.

In our experience, it’s best to contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as you can after the incident (or the discovery of the incident). By reaching out early, it’s easier to gather evidence, the legal team has time to take the right course of action, and you get compensation for all expenses sooner.

6. Do I Have a Medical Negligence Claim?

Although we listed some examples above, we can’t possibly cover every type of medical negligence claim in this guide. With this, you’re likely to be wondering whether or not you should contact an attorney. Firstly, we’ll say that proving a medical malpractice case is something for your attorney to worry about. Too often, we hear victims worrying about how to prove a medical malpractice claim; the answer is with an experienced and effective legal team.

What if you’re unsure whether you have a potential claim in the first place? Firstly, you need to have had some form of relationship with the medical professional. To pursue a claim, the doctor must have agreed to work with you because there needs to have been official employment for a malpractice case. If the doctor did not agree to work with you, a case will not be possible.

Next, the easiest part of the process to prove for attorneys is that there was a duty of care towards you. If you have a relationship with the doctor, they need to have worked at the accepted standards that apply to all medical professionals in the industry. Regardless of their niche, every medical professional has a legal obligation to provide the best care to all patients.

With the first two proven, the next reason you know you have a case is that the professional breached this duty of care. Did they act negligently? Did they follow a path that other medical practitioners of the same standard would have avoided? Did they fail to read results correctly or prescribe the wrong medication?

After a breach of duty, the attention switches to causation. Do you have an injury and was that injury a direct result of the breach of duty? Of course, you cannot claim for a pre-existing injury; compensation is only obtainable when the breach caused your injury. When working with an attorney, they will prove the causal relationship between injury and negligence using expert testimonies, medical records, and various other important documents.

Finally, there must be damages, either non-economic or economic, to pursue. For example, this might come in the form of medical bills or time off work. If you aren’t able to work because of the injuries, you deserve compensation when the accident wasn’t your own fault. The more serious the injuries, the higher the compensation because it needs to cover medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Do you have a medical negligence claim? The answer is yes if you’ve experienced an injury in a medical setting that wasn’t your fault and where negligence was present. The answer is yes if you engaged a medical professional, they agreed to work with you, they had a duty of care, they breached this duty of care, this caused an injury, and there are damages to recover.

If you still aren’t sure, we highly recommend getting in touch with the amazing experts at The Injury Firm. With all the right experience, we can advise on whether or not you have a case. If we need more details, we can arrange a free case evaluation to discuss potential damages and compensation.

7. Making a Claim and Working with a Medical Malpractice Attorney

For those who have a case, we know that the natural inclination is to research doing everything alone and save yourself the cost of an attorney. However, this is the wrong route to take because an attorney provides lots of value. As noted earlier, making a claim starts with an expert witness who is willing to testify that the guilty party acted irresponsibly or with negligence. Without an attorney, it’s difficult to find an expert willing to help.

In the majority of medical malpractice lawsuits, it’s fair to say that they are settled away from court. If we can achieve a respectable compensation package on your behalf, we’re happy to settle outside of court. However, we also have the resources and determination to take a case to court if this is necessary. In other cases, it might be that arbitration is required to come to an agreement with the other party.

Compared to any other personal injury case, there’s a complexity that makes your decision of a lawyer more important. When choosing, you should look for a service that has access to experts, knows how the system works, has an understanding of medicine, and can avoid the techniques used by the doctor’s lawyers. As you probably expect, we have all of these things at The Injury Firm.

In medical malpractice cases, the victim suffers pain, trauma, mental anguish, and horrifying experiences. With this, we encourage you to rest and recuperate while we work on your behalf. If you’re claiming on behalf of a loved one who died as a result of medical negligence, you deserve to mourn in peace without having to deal with the intricacies of an insurance claim or lawsuit.

When you choose us, we will start by reviewing all the information to assess whether or not you have a claim. If yes, we’ll collect evidence that will help to prove your case while contacting an expert testimony willing to help with your case. Our experienced and knowledgeable team will also determine the liable parties and a potential claim value.

If ever you have any questions or concerns, you will have a point of contact with us. We help clients understand their legal rights and what options they have when proceeding with a case. We do this daily, so we understand the procedures and rules that govern this area of law.

Even with what may seem a strong case, you still need a reliable and professional attorney team to protect your legal rights and obtain a compensation package fit for the incident. We have the right negotiation strategies but, perhaps more importantly, we have the resources to achieve the compensation you truly deserve. With some attorneys, they lack resources, and this means they settle for something less than the client deserves - this is not an option for us. If you deserve compensation, we will fight on your behalf until we have achieved it.

Whether you’re the victim, or you need to claim for a lost loved one, The Injury Firm will handle your case with care and compassion. We understand your traumatic situation as a medical malpractice attorney, and we’re willing to help whenever you need it!

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1608 East Commercial Blvd.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33334

Phone (954) 951-0000
Fax: (954) 951-1000

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The information contained in this website is provided for informational purposes only.  This website may contain information about The Injury Firm's past results, testimonials about the firm or a lawyer within the firm, and statements regarding the quality of The Injury Firm's work product. This information has not been reviewed or approved by The Florida Bar. Please be advised that: 1) the facts and circumstances of your case may differ from the matters for which results and testimonials have been provided: 2) Not all results of cases handled by the firm or its lawyers are provided and not all clients have given testimonials; and 3) The results and testimonials provided are not necessarily representative of results obtained by the firm or by its lawyers or of the experience of all clients or others within the firm or its lawyers. Every case is different, and each client’s case must be evaluated and handled on its own merits.

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