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Medical Malpractice

Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney

Gavel and stethoscope to show medicine and the law

Have you suffered injuries or lost a loved one due to healthcare practitioner negligence? If so, you may be entitled to compensation. An experienced team of medical malpractice lawyers in Florida can help you recover maximum damages. Searcy Denney is a personal injury firm in Florida with more than 40 years of experience fighting for malpractice victims. If you or a loved one were hurt because of doctor, nurse, hospital, or pharmaceutical error, contact us today to discuss your legal rights and options for recovery with a skilled Florida medical malpractice attorney.

Medical Malpractice Facts and Statistics

In 2016, researchers at Johns Hopkins published a study which revealed medical malpractice as the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Medical mistakes account for more than 250,000 deaths annually, and countless more patients needlessly suffer injuries, illnesses and complications as a result of emergency room and hospital errors each year. These are alarming numbers, and they help demonstrate the importance of taking legal action when you suspect that negligence is to blame for your medical condition or your loved one’s untimely death.

Medical equipment

Why? While medical malpractice lawsuits provide much-needed compensation for victims and their families, they also help in the fight against the enormous human and financial costs of medical mistakes. The more physicians, hospitals, and other practitioners and facilities are held responsible for their mistakes, the more likely they are to exercise greater care when treating patients in the future. Most forms of medical malpractice are fairly simple: misdiagnosing a patient’s condition, administering too much or too little medication, using too much force during birth and delivery. However, the consequences can be devastating, and patients who suffer due to medical malpractice deserve to receive full and fair compensation for their doctors’ mistakes.

 

What Qualifies as Medical Malpractice?

If you’ve been injured in a potential medical malpractice scenario, then you may be wondering whether the treating healthcare provider at-issue actually committed medical malpractice or simply made a mistake for which they cannot be held liable.  This can be rather confusing for the first-time victim— the line drawn between a mistake and medical malpractice may be a significant source of conflict during litigation.

Medical malpractice liability will attach to a defendant healthcare provider if you can show that they failed to adhere to the applicable standard of care.  Failure to adhere to the professional standard of care will constitute medical negligence and give rise to a legitimate medical malpractice claim.

So, what is the applicable standard of care? A Florida medical malpractice lawyer explains 

Florida law establishes a clear definition of the standard of care necessary for evaluating medical malpractice liability.  Section 766.102 of the Florida Statutes describes the standard of care owed by a healthcare provider as the: level of care, skill, and treatment that is recognized as appropriate by other, similarly-positioned healthcare providers, given the overall circumstances.  Factors that can influence the standard of care include, but are not necessarily limited, to the following:

  • Experience, specialized training, background
  • Access to medical tools/equipment
  • Career position
  • Age
  • And more

Let’s clarify with a brief example.

Suppose that you are injured due to an error committed by your treating surgeon.  The surgeon made an incision based off the available evidence, but it led to significant bleeding and damage that led to injury.  Now, you might sue the surgeon to recover damages for medical malpractice, but the court will evaluate whether the defendant-surgeon actually violated the standard of care.  Experts will be brought in to testify as to the standard of care for the circumstances at-issue.

As the plaintiff, you’ll want to show that a similarly-positioned surgeon (with the same experience, age, background, and dealing with the same surgical event) would have made a different incision, and you would not have suffered an injury.  If you can establish a standard of care that the defendant violated, then you can recover damages for medical malpractice.

Claims Our Florida Medical Malpractice Law Firm Handles 

Many time patients mistakenly believe that negligence or an error made by a doctor, surgeon or hospital, in general, are the only instances where they can recover in a claim. Though those are some of the most common medical malpractice claims, a Florida medical malpractice attorney from our firm can also assist with: 

Surgical Errors

Surgical errors are quite variable and frequently misunderstood by first-time plaintiffs in the medical malpractice context.  Complex surgery requires that the treating healthcare providers invest the time and effort necessary to fully evaluate the condition and medical history of the patient. If there is inadequate preparation the surgeon is likely culpable as well. They are the captain of the ship before, during and after surgery. 

Emergency Room Negligence

Emergency rooms are fundamentally chaotic places.  Healthcare providers move quickly between patients, attempting to dispense reasonable medical care in a setting that does not necessarily give them the time or resources to make ideal decisions for the patient.  In the emergency room context, it’s quite likely that you — as a patient — will be the victim of a medical mistake of some kind, though the imposition of medical malpractice liability is not always clearcut.  Because emergency rooms are so stressful and the constraints forced on healthcare providers so significant, the standard of care is somewhat lower than in other situations (i.e., a long-term care clinical environment).

Medication Errors

Medication errors in hospitals are another form of medical negligence that occur with alarming frequency. If you or a loved one has suffered due to an inappropriate prescription, negative drug interaction, overdose or underdose, medication mix-up, or other medication-related medical mistake, our lawyers can help you seek just compensation.

Pharmacy Errors

Medication-related errors are common in the outpatient setting as well. When pharmacists fail to check patients’ medical histories, fail to consider negative drug interactions, mix up patients’ medications, improperly fill prescriptions, and make other dangerous mistakes, patients who suffer as a result deserve to be fully compensated for their ensuing losses.

Failure to Diagnose

Diagnostic negligence is very common and may lead to significant injuries (or even death) in situations where the illness progresses silently due to the lack of a proper diagnosis.  Errors include, but are not necessarily limited, to the following:

  • Misdiagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis
  • Failure to conduct proper test
  • Failure to correctly perform test (leading to inaccurate results)
  • Mishandling test results
  • Failure to get a second or third opinion on a complex diagnosis issue
  • And more

For example, if you tell your physician that you are experiencing certain symptoms, and they fail to recognize that the symptoms are serious enough — and potentially indicative of a larger problem — such that a diagnostic test should be ordered, then there may be significant delays in you receiving the necessary diagnosis.  If it turns out that the physician’s actions led to a delayed diagnosis that advanced your condition and gave rise to further injury (i.e., cancer), then you would have an actionable medical malpractice claim and should meet with a Florida medical malpractice lawyer.

Failure to Treat

Some healthcare providers are “too” cautious in how they handle patients.  If you are suffering from a medical condition that requires treatment, and your healthcare provider delays or otherwise refuses to give you adequate treatment (perhaps in the hopes of waiting for it to resolve itself), then your condition could worsen and cause you further injury — under such circumstances, you would almost certainly have a legitimate medical malpractice claim.

Misdiagnosis

An incorrect diagnosis — misdiagnosis — is one of the more commonly encountered forms of medical negligence in Florida, and elsewhere.  Importantly, however, some healthcare providers are simply not equipped to make an accurate diagnosis.

For example, if you are suffering from a rare viral condition that affects fewer than 100 persons every years (and has no obvious symptoms), then it’s not likely that a court would impose medical malpractice liability on a physician who failed to correctly diagnose the condition.  On the other hand, if the physician was an expert in rare viral conditions, and should have identified and correctly diagnosed the condition, then medical malpractice liability may attach.

Cancer Misdiagnosis:  Cancer misdiagnosis is extremely serious, as — given the current state of cancer treatment in the medical industry — certain cancers can be more difficult, if not impossible to treat as they advance to a later stage.  The earlier that cancer is identified and treated, the better chance the patient has of surviving (and avoiding extensive physical impairments).

Heart Attack Misdiagnosis:  Many patients don’t realize that heart attacks are commonly misdiagnosed, which can lead to unnecessary (and improper) treatment that exacerbates the condition and allows it to go unchecked for an extended period of time, putting the patient at further risk of injury, or even death.

Radiological Misdiagnosis:  Radiological decisions (in the diagnostic context) are tied to an inherent level of uncertainty, but well-trained radiologists are capable of intelligently interpreting the results so as to give other healthcare providers the information they need to move forward with treatment.  When a radiologist makes a diagnosis based on the radiological results, they must avoid misreading the test images and avoid too much conjecture.  Treating physicians may rely on the interpretation of the radiologist, and if the radiologist is giving a diagnosis that is based excessively on conjecture, then this could lead to months or even years of incorrect treatment.

Stroke Misdiagnosis:  Stroke misdiagnosis is common, in part because it’s not always clear whether a patient has suffered a stroke — though some stroke events are more obvious and more significant in the deficits they cause, other strokes are minor by comparison.  Stroke misdiagnosis can allow the conditions that foster a high likelihood of stroke to continue, thus heightening the risk of another stroke down the line.  Further, a minor stroke that goes untreated can worsen over time, leading to substantial injuries or even death.

Lack of Informed Consent

In Florida, healthcare providers must inform the patient of the risks involved with treatment and obtain the patient’s consent before moving forward with a procedure or treatment — consent does not necessarily require more than verbal or gestural acceptance.  Further, in the event that a healthcare provider fails to obtain informed consent, medical malpractice will not attach if the defendant shows that a reasonable patient would have consented (given the circumstances).

Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility Negligence

Like hospitals and other medical facilities, nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a legal obligation to provide professional care for their residents. Medication errors, inadequate staffing, employment of unqualified caregivers, improper use of medical devices and restraints, resident abandonment, and various other forms of negligence can have life-threatening consequences, and residents who suffer due to inadequate care deserve a chance at a better life.

Treatment Error Resulting in Brain Injury

Brain injuries can result from anesthesia errors, childbirth errors, medication and surgical errors, and various other forms of medical negligence. Obviously, the consequences of a brain injury can be devastating, and we have the experience needed to help malpractice victims and their loved ones secure the financial resources they will need for their long-term coping and recovery.

Amputation Injuries

In the amputation context, there are two major forms of medical malpractice that are frequently encountered:

  • The limb in question did not actually need to be amputated, and an alternative form of treatment could have been made available to avoid the amputation, and
  • Amputation was necessary, but the procedure was done improperly, causing serious injury.

For example, if your treating healthcare provider convinces you to move forward with amputation without informing you that there are other, less invasive treatment options that could save your limb, then they may be committing medical malpractice — the deficits produced by an amputation can be quite severe and can have lifelong consequences for the patient. Our Florida medical malpractice attorneys understand these consequences and will help pursue as much compensation as possible. 

Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia errors may occur due to the following negligent acts:

  • Failure to monitor patient during surgical procedure
  • Use of defective equipment
  • Failure to direct patient on steps necessary prior to anesthesia procedure
  • Failure to consider risk profile of patient (i.e., medical history)
  • Mistakes during administration of anesthetic
  • And more

In some cases, an anesthesia error can give cause death, paralysis, nerve damage, respiratory problems, and more.  Given the potential for such severe damages, it’s important that anesthesiologists exercise care when evaluating a patient and conducting the procedure.

Birth Injuries

We represent parents in medical malpractice cases involving fatal and non-fatal birth injuries. We have significant experience in cases involving obstetric negligence, errors during labor and delivery, and negligent neonatal care. Our medical malpractice lawyers in Florida have secured substantial financial awards for families in cases involving birth injuries such as:

  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Erb’s palsy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Brachial plexus palsy
  • Lack of oxygen resulting in brain damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis

Proving Medical Negligence in Florida

stethoscope laying on the counter with medical person writing notes

You know your doctor made a mistake and you know you have suffered injuries. The next step is understanding that your Florida medical malpractice attorney will need to meet the strict legal burdens to recover compensation for the medical negligence.

What Your Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney Will Need to Prove

To prevail on a medical malpractice claim, you must prove each element. Regardless of whether you are suing a doctor, specialist, nurse, hospital, lab or another medical professional or entity, the basic elements are the same:

  • Your medical provider owed you a legal duty of care
  • An act or omission by the medical provider did not conform to the accepted standard of care
  • The deviation from the accepted standard of care constituted a breach of duty to you
  • The breach of duty was a direct and proximate cause of your injuries
  • You suffered damages as a result of your injuries

Understanding Direct and Proximate Cause

Proving that your doctor made a grave error is not enough, nor is proving you are injured. You must also show that your doctor caused your injuries. Our attorneys clearly and definitively link your doctor’s actions of omissions to the injuries you sustained.

The defense often tries to break this crucial link by claiming your injuries were pre-existing, caused by an intervening event or simply unrelated to the doctor’s mistake. Our lawyers anticipate these tactics and immediately lay the groundwork for disproving the defense’s assertions.

Accepted Standard of Care

Your medical provider is held to an accepted standard of care of a similarly situated professional. For example, your orthopedic surgeon would be expected to act in accordance with the credentials, knowledge and skills generally demanded of orthopedics. However, your family doctor would not be expected to possess the intricate knowledge and skills of an orthopedic specialist, but would be expected to have more general medical knowledge.

We consult with respected specialists about what constitutes an accepted standard of care within the relevant occupation. In consultation with these experts, our attorneys prove the standards within the particular profession and the manner in which your doctor fell short of those standards.

Calculating Damages

The types of compensation available in medical malpractice cases are the same regardless of the type of error, type of medical provider, and type of illness or injury involved. In many cases, patients’ ongoing medical expenses will represent one of the largest portions (if not the largest portion) of their financial recovery. However, other financial losses – including lost earning capacity and out-of-pocket expenses – are recoverable as well, and victims can also obtain compensation for pain and suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and various other forms of non-financial harm.

In order to collect compensation, you must prove the losses you suffered or will suffer in the future. Putting a price tag on your pain, suffering, disabilities, disfigurement and loss of the enjoyment of your life may seem impossible. We recognize that no dollar amount can replace what you truly lost.

However, every Florida medical malpractice attorney at our firm is highly skilled in calculating the legal damages you are entitled to for your losses. We consider every factor that could render a higher settlement or verdict.

Examples of Florida Medical Malpractice Case Results

Our team of Florida medical malpractice attorneys has recovered millions of dollars in settlements for victims of medical malpractice and negligence. 

View our recent case results and learn more about our medical malpractice settlements and verdicts.

The Time Limit to File a Medical Negligence Claim

Under Florida law, a patient must file a medical malpractice claim within two years of the date that the malpractice, “is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence.” However:

“[I]n no event shall the action be commenced later than 4 years from the date of the incident or occurrence out of which the cause of action accrued, except that this 4-year period shall not bar an action brought on behalf of a minor on or before the child’s eighth birthday.”

In other words, in most cases, the statute of limitations is two years from the date on which the malpractice occurs. However, this can be extended up to four years if the malpractice is not immediately discoverable, and parents can file claims for birth injuries until their child’s eighth birthday. To avoid losing your rights or making mistakes that could jeopardize your claim, we strongly encourage you to consult a medical malpractice attorney in Florida as soon as possible.

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Accomplished Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney

For more information about filing a medical malpractice claim in Florida, schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a Florida medical malpractice attorney at Searcy Denney. To request an appointment at either our West Palm Beach or Tallahassee office, please call us at 800-780-8607, or send us your contact information and we will be in touch as soon as possible.  Our offices are located in Tampa, West Palm, and Tallahassee.  

Hear What Our Clients Have To Say

"The attorneys and staff at Searcy Denney are some of the most compassionate and caring individuals I have met in the legal field. They work tirelessly on behalf of their clients to ensure the best possible outcome. I would highly recommend them for anyone who is seeking excellent legal representation."
Posted By: Lauren Schumacher