Understanding Medical Malpractice in Florida
Along with most lawyers, accountants, and other professionals, the general public usually holds medical doctors and other medically trained professionals in high regard, making an assumption that they are knowledgeable and skilled in what they are doing. We typically find this to be especially true when we are going under the knife for a surgery. But what happens when something goes wrong that could have been prevented? The repercussions of medical malpractice can be life changing and even deadly. Understanding the laws that govern the treatment of medical malpractice cases is crucial to recovering damages for the medical bills, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering. If you or a loved one was involved in a medical procedure that resulted in preventable injury or death, it is vital to seek the assistance of an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
Elements to Prove Medical Malpractice in Florida
In order to bring a successful claim of medical malpractice in Florida, five elements must be proven by the injured party:
First, the plaintiff must prove that there was a doctor-patient relationship between the injured party and the physician. Establishing this link requires that the injured party prove that they consented to medical care by the physician and that the physician agreed to provide medical services to the patient. Just because a doctor-patient relationship exists, doesn’t necessarily mean that any injury caused to the patient is medical malpractice. Under Florida law, the injury must occur while the patient is being treated under the care of the doctor. Thus, if a doctor and a patient ran into each other at the gym and decided to a play a game of basketball in which the patient was injured due to the negligence of the doctor, the injury may be a result of negligence but it would not constitute medical malpractice.
Second, a duty of care must be established. This simply means that the doctor will be held to a standard that is comparable to another doctor in a similar situation. Depending on the type of doctor, the comparability may be made at a local level or at a national level.
Third, the physician must have breached their duty to the patient. Referring to the duty that was established in the second requirement, the doctor may have committed malpractice if their actions detrimentally deviated from the actions that another doctor in a similar situation would have taken.
Fourth, the doctor’s failure to treat the patient with the proper duty of care must have been the cause of the injury or death of the patient. Thus, the injury to the patient must have been the actual cause and a foreseeable injury that could result from the breach of the doctor’s duty of care. For instance, if a doctor botched a knee replacement surgery and a day later the patient died from an unrelated cancer, although the doctor may have been committed medical malpractice with regard to the knee surgery, he or she would not be responsible for the death of the patient because the botched knee surgery was not the cause of the patient’s death.
Lastly, the injured party must prove that they sustained damages as a result of the medical malpractice. Damages can include additional medical bills, lost wages, and loss of future earning potential. In addition to economic damages, an injured patient can typically recover for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
Although it is true that the Florida legislature has attempted to limit the damages that can be recovered by victims of medical malpractice, the Florida Supreme Court has struck down various provisions that would place limits non-economic damages that are sought to be recovered by victims of medical malpractice. Just last year, the Florida high court ruled that in wrongful death cases that stemmed from medical malpractice, a $1 million cap on damages violated the Florida constitution.
Contact Our Attorneys in Tallahassee
Because medical malpractice cases are fact-specific and typically require a thorough investigation to determine all of the facts and circumstances of the botched treatment, contacting an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as an injury arises is in your best interest. The skilled professionals at the Tallahassee law firm of Barrett, Fasig & Brooks have decades of experience getting injured clients just like you what they deserve. Give us a call today to set up your free initial consultation at (866) 346-4186 or (850) 224-3310.