Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney is a personal injury law firm that primarily serves clients in the entire Jacksonville, Florida area, and has the finest attorneys to represent you in court. Any time you seek medication and treatment from a health care facility, the first thing you expect is proper care and services that promise an improved condition. Regardless, there are scenarios of medical misconduct that still happen to date. Commonly known as medical malpractices, these medical misconducts can cause injuries, thereby making it vital to have a personal injury attorney help you in seeking compensation.
What Suffices As a Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is negligence on the part of health care attendants such as surgeons, pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and other specialists. The consequences of the negligence result in severe hurt, harm and/or death. Not to say that the action has to be intended; it could be that the health care provider engaged in an activity that caused the patient to suffer eventually. It really does not matter if the doctor operated on the wrong body part or if he/she failed to let you in on the side effects; as long as it causes harm and grave injuries, then it amounts to medical malpractice.
However, it is important to note that sometimes not all medical outcomes are caused by malpractice. There are times that the doctors will have done all that they could but the inevitable still happens. It takes the skills and experience of a qualified personal injury attorney to establish if the death or injury was as a result of negligence. The good news is that Florida State laws Ch. 766 have a clear outline of the procedure of dealing with a medical malpractice claim.
When all is said and done, the specifics of each case differ. As such, it is important to conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible for the patient’s injury.
Understanding Your Patients’ Rights in Florida
It is important to know your rights as a patient for you to accurately file a case of medical malpractice. You have the right to receive accurate information about your diagnosis, treatment options and the risks associated with the same. If the information is withheld and you suffer harm, then that is a ground for medical malpractice. Part of the right of information is the freedom to express grievances about a violation of any of your patient rights. Secondly, you have the right to receive compensation from the health care provider if they were negligent and in the process, caused you to suffer harm.
Common Forms of Medical Malpractice
Missed and delayed diagnoses are the major causes of medical malpractices. For instance, when a doctor fails to identify and detect a condition, there is a possibility of the wrong treatment. In the process, the patient loses the actual treatment opportunity. Over time, the missed condition will have advanced and can cause serious harm or lead to death. The best approach in proving such a claim is establishing what the accused doctor did wrong and how a competent doctor would have handled the diagnosis. If another proficient doctor would not do the same mistakes, then the accused is guilty as charged. The most common misdiagnosed conditions are heart attacks, tumors, lung disease, infections, etc. Misdiagnosis can be handled hand in hand with improper treatment. Improper treatment comes about when a doctor has accurately detected the right disorder and treatment but then administers it incorrectly and ineptly.
Anesthesia administration is a critical part of any surgery. To this regard, there is a specific procedure and amount that should be followed during the process. Improper anesthesia administration can result in death, which is the most fatal consequence. We are in agreement on the fact that mistakes do happen. However, anesthesiologists need to exercise due diligence. Doing due diligence involves preparing the patient for anesthesia administration, as well as monitoring the patient’s progress through the surgery. Alongside anesthesiologists, other health practitioners such as doctors and nurses have a duty to monitor the patient and ensure that there is no distress from the patient during surgery.
Here is a list of anesthesia-related complications as a result of medical malpractices:
- Heart attack
- Spinal infections
- Immature death
- Nerve damage
- Waking up during surgery
- Allergic reaction
Emergency Room Negligence
In as much as emergency rooms can be super busy, this does not excuse them from the liability of failing to attend to the patients brought in. If anything, ER personnel have a higher duty and obligation to detect a diagnosis in time and provide accurate treatment. It is in the emergency room that a patient’s life hangs in the balance and as such, the need to act promptly and efficiently. ER doctors and attendants are thoroughly trained on how to respond and deal with acute situations. When they fail to act with the expected speed, the results are life-threatening.
From the very onset of patients triage to the assessment of who needs to be seen first, examination, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, and evaluation has to be perfect. Otherwise, when the ER attendant draws a wrong conclusion, the end result is grave harm.
During an investigation, the case is traced all the way back from the arrival of the patient to the medical facility. Some of the questions that the court will seek to establish are:
- Did the receiving ER staff attendants ask basic questions and assess the patient?
- How much time did it take for the patient to receive a physical examination?
- Where was the patient parked after the reception? Was it in the emergency room, at the hallway or in an unattended room?
- What appropriate tests were conducted to rule out other serious possibilities?
- Was the patient admitted or observed for some time before being sent home?
- Did the patient receive the right diagnosis or did they collapse soon after they left the medical facility?
Answers to all of the above questions are critical in bringing a strong case for medical malpractice as pertains to emergency room errors.
Child harm during delivery is a very common occurrence. As a matter of fact, parents are often left wondering how harm is possible, especially when they are in the hands of professional medical practitioners. In most cases, the injuries can lead to lifetime complications in the life of the victim. An experienced personal injury attorney is able to help evaluate the case and map out the way forward. In the long run, you stand good chances of securing sufficient compensation for future treatment and medical expenses. Some of the birth injuries that may arise are collarbone and clavicle fractures, brachial plexus injuries, shoulder dystocia, birth hypoxia, and injuries to the forceps, cerebral palsy, and Erb's palsy.
Pharmacy Errors and Prescription Overdose
Pharmacists also have a hand in the area of medical malpractice. Wrong medicine prescription occurs in two stages; either when writing the prescription or when filling the order. Sometimes it’s as a result of overworked staff members who have to stay active at work and in the process, end up issuing the wrong medicine. What then constitutes prescription and pharmacy errors?
- A failure on the part of the pharmacist or the doctor to make inquiries as pertains to any drug allergies and medications
- Confusion about the name of the drugs and thus, issuing the wrong medicine
- Wrong dosage prescription on the basis of age or physical condition
- Prescription of drugs that are unapproved for use
- Imperfect drug prescription timing
Surgical Errors and Complications
Any surgery, whether minor or major, has risks associated with it. That notwithstanding, if a surgeon is negligent on the operating room so as to cause harm, signing a waiver does not exempt him from liability. No surgeon should deviate from protocol and procedure or else he/she will face diverse repercussions. Given that patients place their lives in the hands of the surgeons and doctors during surgery, these specialists have all the reasons to do their due diligence and adhere to the guidelines and procedures laid down. Surgical errors that amount to medical malpractice include:
- Items and objects left in the body part being operated on. For instance, sponges, needles, clamps etc
- Conducting an operation on the wrong body part
- The use of non-sterile objects and thus, causing infections
- Needle and scalpel injuries on tissues, nerves, organs, and arteries that can lead to internal bleeding
- Discharge from the hospital prematurely when the patient is not functioning optimally
- Anesthesia errors
- Post-surgery recovery monitoring
Radiology and Lab Malpractice
The various lab tests conducted are the basis for the determination of the diagnosis that a patient should be treated for. X-rays, urine, and blood checks are just but a few examples of tests used to examine the same. If either of the said assessments is wrongly interpreted, this can result in an altered diagnosis every step of the way. Besides interpretation, other errors that may arise in the lab and radiology rooms are administering and communication errors.
You have grounds for medical malpractice if the action of a lab attendant causes you harm, injury, and death as the worst case scenario. All mistakes that involve your CT scans, x-rays, MRIs, blood samples, PET scans, ultrasound imaging, urology samples, radioactive dye, and tissue biopsy are all grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. You need to have an attorney with the skills and experience to review medical records and accurately unearth radiology and lab errors. Failure to spot fractures, internal bleeding, sepsis, hematoma, blood clots, and false positives that lead to superfluous surgeries and treatments are all medical malpractices.
Medical Malpractice Claim Requirements
Despite the fact that laws vary from state to state, there are basic requirements that must be fulfilled in Florida for a successful medical malpractice claim. Above all things, you must be in a position to prove the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. In other words, are there records that show that, indeed, you received treatment at the respective hospital? A signed waiver would be a good evidential starting point.
Secondly, you need to ascertain that the said medical doctor was, indeed, negligent. Could be they were unskilled or not careful among many other possible reasons. You demonstrate negligence by showing beyond a reasonable doubt that out of the misconduct, you sustained injuries. In most cases, corroborating negligence and harm involve bringing on board another medical expert who can attest to the facts of the medical malpractice case in question. Additionally, the unbiased medical adept has to ascertain the fact that a competent health practitioner would have handled the procedure in such a way as not to cause harm.
The Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractices in Florida
Before you can sue a person in court, there is a requirement for you to serve them with a notice of your intention to sue them. The notice should have an affidavit from a licensed medical doctor indicating that the claim you state is valid. The notification is what sets in motion the settlement process covered within a period of 90 days. If the medical doctor in contempt indicates that he or she does not wish to settle, then you are given another 60 days to sue them in a court of law. The court is in a position to add an extra 90 days for an investigation period upon request. It is during the requested investigation period that you look for a qualified medical expert to validate your claims.
The maximum time to initiate legal proceedings for medical malpractice is two years. The two years grace period commences from the date of the medical occurrence or from when the plaintiff becomes cognizant of the injury. When you do not file a complaint within the two years grace period, you lose the opportunity to ever initiate legal proceedings or seek compensatory damages for the injuries sustained.
Nevertheless, there is another time restriction imposed by the Florida state laws referred to as the statute of repose. Under the statute of repose, you as the plaintiff cannot file a case against the defendant four years after the incidence. Subsequently, the statute of repose is possible only if there is a case of misrepresentation, fraud and/or concealment on behalf of the health practitioner. As such, the plaintiff has to realize that the malpractice ensued before the lapse of four years. Otherwise, after the lapse of four years, the law cannot allow you to file a case seeking compensatory damages.
The reason why there is a statutory limit of two years is to cut down on the frivolous cases filed and the cost of insurance for medical malpractices. In regards to the amount of time it takes to rule on a medical malpractice case, the length differs from case to case. Some cases may take months while others may take years. The settlement of a medical malpractice case is dependent on a variety of factors such as:
- The amount of time it will take to find and settle for a medical expert
- The courts' readiness
- Discoveries that come up as the case progresses
- The nature and magnitude of the appealed damages
- The availability and willingness of the insurance company to negotiate
Comparative Negligence for Medical Malpractice in Florida
Florida state laws have a very keen eye for a pure form of comparative laxity. This form of comparison serves to proportionately reduce the extent of damages awarded to the plaintiff. The basis for the reduced damages pertains to the share percentage of fault the petitioner may have contributed. For instance, suppose a patient ignores the doctors’ advice on prescription? The patient will most certainly face counterclaims from the defendant for comparative negligence. The case is even more aggravated if the defendant can verify that as a result of the appellants’ neglect and ignorance to follow the doctors’ advice, it resulted in more harm. As such, both the patient and the medical doctor share the fault in varying proportions.
Another case scenario is when more than one defendant is responsible for medical malpractice. In such a case, the event is that of joint liability. The obligation is thus, divided among the accused in regards to the degree of fault.
Damages for Medical Negligence Under The Florida Law
Eventually, when the case is ruled as one of medical negligence, the victims and their families receive a stipulated form of compensation/damage. Below are the four categories of damages:
- Economic Compensatory Damages
Economic damages are verifiable monetary losses that come about as the end result of the malpractice. The monetary loss could either be in the past or the future. For instance, when we talk of future loss, we mean things like loss of a business opportunity or employment principally when one is rendered incapable of working. Your lawyer will have to provide pay slips of the amount you have been earning and what you stand to lose. Besides, there are other costs that you will have to incur such as medical bills covering medicine, therapy, and attendant care. All of the above costs are critical and thus, the need for economic damages to cater to the same.
- Non-economic Compensatory Damages
Non-economic losses are rather hard to quantify. How can you quantify pain and loss? It’s next to impossible. Among the losses categorized as non-economic include: inconvenience, the loss of a loved one, pain, suffering, disability, mental anguish, loss of life enjoyment, disorder, emotional imbalance, distress, etc. Yes, it is hard to put a price tag on the above kind of losses. But the truth is, they are just as binding as economic damages.
- Nominal Damages
Now, if you are not able to establish the actual hurt, you get what is called nominal damages. Nominal damages are relatively smaller amounts awarded in the case where the victim has not suffered any loss or injury.
- Punitive Damages
The sole and major purpose for punitive damages is to punish and dissuade the defender from repeating the same offense. Punitive damages are rare and are mostly enforced when the extent of harm caused is grave and appalling. More so, when the actions of the accused were intentional, then punitive damages will come in handy. The awarded sum in punitive damages is considerably high than the extent of harm caused. To prove that the action was intentional, an attorney has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant knew what he/she was doing. The attorney needs to substantiate that the accused has no regard for life or for the safety of others.
Regardless of the nature of compensatory damages, Florida state laws have damage Caps that set a limit as to how much money should be awarded to damages. For non-economic damages such as pain, loss, and suffering, the upper limit is 500,000 dollars for respective individuals and 750,000 dollars for corporate and entities. However, if the individual dies or is left in a vegetative state, then the capped amount is increased to one million dollars.
What Happens in The Case of a Signed Waiver?
Every level of medical procedure has risks associated with it. Per se, most hospital facilities require that a patient signs a written waiver. A signed waiver is a written undertaking by the patients indicating that they, indeed, understand the risks involved in any medical procedure, but are willing to proceed with the process anyway. The presence of a signed waiver does not entirely remove liability from the health care practitioners for medical negligence. Health care experts will still be held responsible for any malpractice that leads to injury or demise.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Specializing in Medical Malpractice Near Me
Medical malpractice lawsuits are not simple issues in Florida just like in any other state. That is why it is advisable to consult with a qualified attorney that is familiar and experienced in all matters of medical malpractices. Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney caters to clients in and around Jacksonville, Florida. Call our Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer today at 904-800-7557 and we will be sure to set up a free initial consultation. We will discuss the facts of the case and map out a plan on the best way forward.