Florida’s medical practitioners have an ethical and legal duty to care for the well-being and health of their patients. The complexities of medical diagnosis and myriad of ailments and treatments render medical malpractice an intricate area of law.
Those who suspect a healthcare provider has caused harm should promptly call an experienced Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney to schedule a consultation. Skilled Fort Lauderdale injury attorneys at Kogan & DiSalvo can help to pursue compensation if a viable case is determined.
Scope of Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is defined as any act or omission by a healthcare professional that deviates from accepted norms of practice and results in injury to the patient. In the U.S., medical malpractice law is under the jurisdiction of individual states, which have their own procedural requirements and time limits for taking legal action against a negligent medical provider. In order to have a viable medical malpractice claim, the following four criteria must be proven:
- The medical provider owed a professional duty to the patient (a doctor-patient relationship existed)
- The provider breached this duty
- The patient suffered an injury because of the breach
- The injury resulted in economic and non-economic damages
What constitutes medical malpractice in Fort Lauderdale? Medical practitioners are obligated to provide a certain standard of care to their patients equivalent to that which prudent healthcare professionals would provide under similar circumstances. If it is determined that a doctor or other type of medical professional provided substandard treatment and violated their duty, the patient must then prove that the defendant’s negligence caused their injuries and resulting losses.
Disappointment with the results of a surgery or medical treatment does not, by itself, qualify as malpractice. In order to build a viable claim, patients must be able to establish that an act or omission occurred in their care, and that this negligence caused demonstrable harm and financial burdens.
Every year, thousands of injured patients file medical malpractice claims against physicians, anesthesiologists, pharmacists, nurses, dentists, and other healthcare professionals. The National Practitioner Data Bank reports that Florida ranks third in the country for medical malpractice litigation. More than half of these lawsuits allege negligence in hospital inpatient facilities. Medical malpractice cases are generally lengthy, complex ordeals. To improve your chances of a favorable outcome, you’ll need the resources and expertise of an accomplished Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice lawyer.
Common Causes of Medical Malpractice in Fort Lauderdale
At Kogan & DiSalvo, we leverage in-depth knowledge of Florida’s medical negligence laws. Whether suing an individual physician or a Broward County hospital system, you can depend on our dedicated attorneys for compassionate yet results-driven representation.
The most common medical mistakes that qualify for legal action fall into these categories:
Failure to properly diagnose
Some healthcare providers fail to accurately diagnose a condition, or make the wrong diagnosis. Either scenario can have life-altering consequences for patients. The failure to diagnose a potentially fatal condition means that valuable time is lost, during which the disease can progress and worsen dramatically. Or, patients are given treatment for an ailment they do not have, putting them at further risk for harm.
Misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose can happen for any number of reasons, and is most common with breast cancer, heart disease, cancerous tumors, blood clots, and infections. To prevail in these types of claims, your personal injury lawyer will need to call upon expert medical testimony.
Failure to properly treat
When a medical professional diagnoses an illness or injury, their next duty is to provide proper treatment, be it prescription medication, follow-up tests, bedrest, surgical intervention, or other types of therapy. If a physician treats the patient in a way that no other reasonably prudent doctor would in similar circumstances, and serious injury occurs, this can give rise to a medical malpractice claim.
In the context of medical negligence, the failure to properly treat can take many forms. From prescribing the wrong medication to delaying a CT scan or potentially life-saving operation.
Poor documentation of patient instructions
When patients are released from the ER or a hospital setting, they need clear instructions that outline a medical plan for follow-up. This may include dietary restrictions, instructions on medications, and what to do in the event of certain symptoms or complications. Unfortunately, these instructions are often woefully inadequate or confusing to patients, who may not understand the gravitas of their situation.
If an incomplete discharge with poor patient instructions led to health complications, bodily harm, or death, this may certainly amount to malpractice.
Errors in administering medications
Despite new and improved technologies to improve safeguards, medication errors remain alarmingly prevalent, especially in hospitals and long-term nursing facilities. There are numerous ways that administration can go wrong. The doctor may prescribe the wrong drug, or an incorrect dosage.
Patients are at risk for irreparable harm when a medication is prescribed without considering known allergies or other contraindications. Additionally, healthcare providers who administer the medication via the wrong route (intravenous versus oral), may be held liable if the patient suffers adverse reactions.
Failing to follow safety procedures
Hospitals and healthcare facilities must adhere to not only professional standards of care, but policies and safety procedures that have been developed internally. When doctors, nurses, and other medical staff are not educated on these safety procedures, the hospital sets itself up for medical malpractice litigation.
In the same vein, medical professionals who disregard critical safety protocols, whether related to patient admission or post-operative monitoring, may be held liable for any resulting injuries
Informed consent was improper or non-existent
Medical providers have a duty to speak candidly to patients about known risks of a treatment or procedure. In this way, they have the knowledge to make an informed decision if they agree to undertake this risk.
If informed consent is not provided, and the treatment leads to injury, the patient may be able to sue the doctor claiming they would have elected out of the treatment had they been aware of potential risks and complications.
Mistakes during routine and complicated surgeries can result in life-long complications and injuries. Communication break-downs, lapses in judgement and gross incompetence can lead to grave errors on the operating table. Surgeons have been taken to court for operating on the wrong body part, leaving surgical instruments inside the body, as well as nerve and organ damage resulting from negligent maneuvers.
Much of recent litigation has focused on laparoscopic and robotic surgery errors resulting in severe burns, perforated organs, and severe blood loss. Improperly administered anesthesia that causes injury or death can also merit malpractice litigation.
Emergency Room errors
Emergency rooms are among the most harried of clinical environments with staff performing triage on multiple patients. This chaotic setting creates ample opportunities for serious errors, even among skilled nurses and doctors. Misdiagnosis, failure to order further medical tests, premature discharge, and medication mistakes are some of the most documented emergency room errors.
Consider the following scenario. A healthy 45-year-old male rushes to the ER complaining of chest pain and is sent home with some pills for gastric reflux. One day later, he suffers a heart attack because his symptoms were not properly vetted and diagnosed.
Of all medical disciplines, these areas generate the most medical malpractice lawsuits:
- Ob/GYN and women’s health
- Internal and family medicine
Medical Malpractice and Negligence
Healthcare professionals in Florida have a duty to treat their patients according to the state’s medical standard of care, which is care that does not deviate from care performed by competent and skilled providers working in the same medical discipline.
To prove medical malpractice negligence, the patient must demonstrate that the provider violated the medical standard of care either by committing an act or failing to act, called a breach, and the breach caused the injury or death and monetary damages.
There are two types of errors that can constitute medical negligence:
- Errors of omission. In some cases, it’s a doctor’s lack of action that results in patient injury or wrongful death. Examples include failing to perform a life-saving procedure, failing to prescribe medication, or failing to obtain and consider a patient’s full medical history.
- Errors of commission. This type of negligence occurs when a healthcare worker takes the wrong action that falls below accepted standards of care. This could be administering a drug to which the patient is allergic, performing an unnecessary surgery, or incorrectly reading lab results.
Given the potential for grievous mistakes, it’s imperative for victims of medical negligence – including cases of nursing home abuse — to choose their counsel wisely. Align yourself with medical malpractice attorneys Fort Lauderdale residents praise for outstanding advocacy.
Statute of Limitations
Financial compensation procured through medical malpractice litigation is only available to victims who bring their lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations. This is the prescribed time limit for taking legal action against defendants. Florida law provides that a person filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Fort Lauderdale must do so within two years of the incident or the discovery of the injuries. You cannot sue if more than 4 years have elapsed since the incident that caused the injury in any circumstance. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
Exception for Young Children
There are some exceptions to Florida’s statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims. One applies to victims who are minors. Since young children may be slow to manifest symptoms of harm or illness caused by negligent medical treatment, these claims may be tolled until a child’s eighth birthday.
Exception for Fraud
If the healthcare practitioner engaged in fraud or concealment, the filing deadline is extended for an additional two years from the day the injury occurred or was discovered.
Since no two medical malpractice cases are alike, it’s always best to seek legal guidance about filing deadlines.
Making a Medical Malpractice Claim
Proving a medical malpractice lawsuit in Fort Lauderdale hinges upon the medical standard of care. Because of the highly technical aspects in the field of medicine, it will be necessary to hire medical experts from the same field as the defendant to testify on the plaintiff’s behalf. The defense will also use experts to prove that the medical standard of care was met. Expert witnesses help jurors grasp technical information that is foreign to them.
An experienced Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice lawyer can also subpoena records of the medical procedures used as evidence and will question, under oath, the medical provider and others involved.
Research indicates that preventable medical errors, or so-called “never events” are commonplace today. By some estimates, 250,000 Americans die every year because of medical mistakes. From premature discharge to delayed diagnosis, any breach in prevailing standards of care comes at a high cost for patients. If you feel your injuries and health complications are the direct result of negligent treatment from a healthcare provider — whether in an emergency room, hospital, or outpatient clinic — you may have grounds for seeking legal redress. At Kogan & DiSalvo, our capable team has the legal savvy to help victims who have been wrongfully injured by trusted healthcare providers. We prepare every case as if it were going to trial and will aggressively fight to secure the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
There a several steps to filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida. Your lawyer must first attain an affidavit or a written medical expert opinion which confirms that your injuries directly stem from medical malpractice.
The next preliminary step is submitting a Notice of Intent to the doctor or hospital that is being sued for malpractice. This notice will include the affidavit and give them warning that you are initiating legal action. The Notice of Intent is outlined in Section 766.106 of the Florida Statutes:
“After completion of pre-suit investigation pursuant to s. 766.203(2) and prior to filing a complaint for medical negligence, a claimant shall notify each prospective defendant by certified mail, return receipt requested, of intent to initiate litigation for medical negligence.”
Pre-suit investigations will continue and include an exhaustive review of the circumstances leading up to your injury. Your attorney will collect and evaluate all medical records and diagnostic results, and verify if the defendant has a history of previous disciplinary actions or malpractice suits.
Building a strong medical malpractice case requires expert testimony to demonstrate how the defendant’s acts or omissions caused your illness or injury. Your legal representative will consult with economic specialists to carefully value resulting damages – past, current, and future.
Once the medical malpractice complaint is filed, both sides enter the discovery stage to gather pertinent evidence to be used during trial. After the discovery is completed, a trial date is set. During this time, both sides may enter mediation and settlement negotiations. The majority of medical negligence claims will settle out of court, but if a settlement is not reached, the lawsuit will eventually be argued in front of a jury.
Who Can Recover Damages in a Medical Malpractice Suit
Any injured patient can seek damages by filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. If the malpractice resulted in the death of a loved one, Florida has specific rules on who can take legal action. According to state law, only the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is able to bring a wrongful death claim. If the litigation is successful, and a settlement or court award is rendered, the state allows the following people to recover damages:
- Surviving spouse
- Minor children
- The deceased’s parents
- Other relatives who were financially dependent on the decedent
Proving Negligence in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
Doctors are human and prone to making errors from time to time. In order to prove negligence in a medical malpractice case, we must demonstrate that your medical provider deviated from the accepted standard of care, and took actions that another doctor would not have taken under the same circumstances. As your legal counsel, we must prove that the defendant breached their duty of care, and the most common way to accomplish this is by enlisting expert witnesses. Our law firm works with an extensive network of respected experts, and knows the right professionals to hire for medical testimony.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for Fort Lauderdale Medical Malpractice?
A medical malpractice claim can be filed against any number of health care providers or entities in Florida, including:
- Emergency rooms
- Surgical centers
What Is Informed Consent?
Medical professionals are required to educate their patients on the benefits, potential risks, success rates, and alternative therapies to a suggested procedure or treatment. This process of understanding the purpose, risks, and potential consequences is known as informed consent. Informed consent is rooted in the concept of patient autonomy. Patients should have the right to make informed decisions regarding their medical conditions and health. The consent form is signed and dated both by the patient and the medical provider. In the absence of informed consent, a patient can sue their doctor if they suffer injury during the treatment, even if the harm sustained was a known risk.
Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
Determining if a doctor or healthcare worker committed malpractice is a labor-intensive process. As Florida’s premier personal injury law firm, we know these cases require meticulous investigations, preparation, and hard work. It is our job to prove if a physician’s substandard care or negligence is responsible for your injuries.
Our talented attorneys will conduct a thorough evaluation of your situation to determine if you have grounds for legal action. We are always candid with our clients, discussing strengths and weaknesses, along with the best strategies for achieving a positive resolution.
What Damages Can Be Recovered from a Fort Lauderdale Medical Malpractice Case?
Because the injuries caused by malpractice are often life-changing, damages can be significant. Damages are used to pay for medical care, additional surgeries, therapy treatments, loss of current and future income, training if the injured party can no longer do the same work, pain and suffering, emotional distress, punitive damages if the malpractice was egregious, and other damages that may apply.
Florida used to have a limit on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, but this was recently deemed unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. This is excellent news for medical malpractice victims who suffered extreme pain and suffering, disability, and other losses that are difficult to quantify.
Non-economic damages are intended to compensate claimants for:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional anguish
- Disability and disfigurement
- Diminished quality of life
Economic or compensatory damages can also be recovered in medical malpractice claims. These are much easier to valuate for settlement purposes, and include:
- Hospital and medical expenses
- Lost income or wages
- Loss of future earnings
- Out of pocket expenses related to the injury
Trusted Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Fort Lauderdale
There are legal remedies for those who suffer injury or death at the hands of medical professionals. Explore your options by reaching out for a free consultation with the malpractice attorneys at Kogan & DiSalvo.
Medical malpractice cases in Fort Lauderdale are often settled by arbitration or an agreement between the parties. Consult an experienced injury attorney today.