A loved one just suffered a tragic death or catastrophic injury, and you think it may involve medical negligence. Here are five key considerations to keep in mind.
In medical malpractice claims, some recoveries may reach tens of millions of dollars. How can damages be so high?
- Money you paid or will pay for medical expenses:
- Medical care is expensive. Those with catastrophic or severely disabling injuries, or who need multiple past and future surgeries, can require a lifetime of expensive medical care.
- Lost wages and loss of earning capacity:
- High-wage earners or younger workers can have substantial wage losses when their injuries prevent them from working. When an injury causes a long-term reduction in earning capacity, the financial loss can be significant.
These damages are more difficult to measure, but are usually substantially more than the economic losses.
- Pain and suffering
- Physical pain from the injury
- Stress, fear, worry, anxiety and distress you experience from the injury, including emotional and psychological suffering
- Permanent impairment and disfigurement
- Long-term loss of body part or reduction of bodily function
- Scars or other anatomical changes that spoil your appearance
- Loss of consortium
- Loss or impairment of a close relationship with a loved one, including their comfort, care, affection, and companionship.
Proving the Case
How can one prove a Medical Malpractice case?
A bad outcome or a less-than-perfect result does not equal malpractice. After all, most medical professionals will explain to you the many risks inherent in medical care, and complications can happen even with the best of care.
Florida law requires all health care professionals to meet “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.” Malpractice (or professional negligence) occurs when the medical provider fails to meet or falls below that standard.
In Florida, this requires a person who wishes to pursue a case, before even making a claim, to get another doctor to review the record and conclude that the standard of care was not met, and it was this failure to meet the legally required standard of care that led to injury. This can be difficult to prove because often there are many providers involved in the patient’s care.
Florida’s Free Kill Law treats the lives of some patients as worthless. If a patient dies from medical malpractice, and that patient is unmarried and has no children under 25, the negligent doctor is immune from liability and is allowed a “free kill”. Because Florida has a large population of older patients with grown kids and no spouse, this law frequently allows negligent doctors to avoid accountability for their misconduct.
Medical malpractice cases are exceptionally difficult and expensive, as Florida law is designed to protect negligent doctors by imposing highly restrictive barriers for patients and their families to hold bad doctors accountable. For this reason, lawyers must carefully evaluate all aspects of the case before pursuing it to make sure that it has sufficient merit and value to overcome those obstacles.
Florida has deadlines which, if missed, prevent a claim. The limits include:
- 2-year statute of limitations – suit must be filed within 2 years of discovery of the medical malpractice (or when you should have discovered it).
- 4-year statute of repose – suit must be filed within 4 years of the malpractice
- 7-year maximum cap – suit must be filed within 7 years even if the doctor deceives you using fraud, concealment, or intentional misrepresentation.
The statute of limitations does not apply to a minor if the case starts on or before a child’s 8th birthday.
Contact an Attorney
The most important issue is saved for last. No amount of online research can help you decide if you have a valid claim. After an extreme loss to you or a loved one that you fear involved medical negligence, you should consult with an experienced attorney as early as possible. If you suspect that you or a loved one was injured by medical malpractice, contact an attorney immediately to discuss your options and evaluate you claim.
Authored by Aaron Clemens, Esq.