Articles Tagged with Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers

As Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers, we know that some of the most common claims stem from diagnostic errors. These include situations like failure to identify a serious disease or diagnosing you with one condition when really you have something else. In these situations, a doctor’s deviation from the standard of care can cause a patient to lose critical time in treating the actual condition. Sometimes, these mistakes cost patients their lives. medical malpractice diagnosis error

But what if you’re diagnosed with something you never actually had? On one hand, you might be relieved to find out you’re disease-free. But on the other hand, you may have undergone numerous painful treatments – not to mention the emotional and mental anguish of such a diagnosis – only to find out it was all wholly unnecessary.

The trauma in that situation is valid. However, it might not be legally actionable. That’s because of the lack of permanent harm.

The reality is that medical malpractice lawsuits are very expensive. They require expensive expert witnesses, a lot of attorney time and energy, etc. And attorneys accept these cases on a contingency basis, meaning they aren’t paid unless and until the plaintiff wins. Even then, most are accepting a percentage of the overall damage award. If there’s no permanent harm suffered, that means the potential damage award dwindles substantially – and fewer attorneys are going to be willing to take the risk.

But we do recognize this is incredibly frustrating for patients who have had to endure these ordeals. The Tampa Bay Times recently delved into this issue, highlighting several cases of diagnostic errors that that led to patients believing they had a serious illness when they actually didn’t.

In one case, a woman was told two days before Christmas that laboratory tests confirmed a type of cancer in her lymphatic system that usually spreads fast to other organs. Her husband was devastated. They canceled holiday celebrations. They cried together a lot. They talked about the wife’s final wishes, and how the husband would manage – financially and otherwise – without her. They canceled an expensive, non-refundable, two-month vacation they had planned so they could focus on her treatment. She upgraded her medical insurance policy to one that was double what she’d previously had. She paid more than $4,000 in tests and consultations. Out of pocket, the couple estimates they were out about $20,000.

But then two months later, a new test result shocked them both: She was completely cancer-free. She’d been misdiagnosed, and as it turned out, she didn’t need any treatment at all.

When she contacted several injury lawyers to see about filing a medical malpractice claim, each turned her down. All cited the fact that she’s currently healthy and whatever damages she did collect probably wouldn’t cover the amount it would take to bring the case to court.

As medical malpractice attorneys, we do understand the deep anger and frustration and desire to hold medical providers accountable when they make major errors. But the reality of such a low damage award means the statutorily-required expert witness would get paid, the lawyer would get paid, but the client probably wouldn’t. Most medical malpractice lawyers would find taking such a case to be unethical. But neither can we agree to take less than our regular fee for our work – or ask the expert witness to do so. Continue reading

A Florida medical malpractice lawsuit could reopen a contentious debate over Amendment 7, a 2004 constitutional amendment that aims for transparency in health care by requiring providers to disclose certain medical error records.Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyer

As our Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers can explain, the health care industry has had it out for Amendment 7 pretty much since the moment it passed by popular vote nearly two decades ago. It’s withstood several challenges, but that doesn’t mean it’s invincible – particularly with four new faces on the Florida Supreme Court since the last major ruling on it. If the state high court is persuaded by an appellate court panel to reconsider – and ultimately change – its position, it will mean plaintiffs in Florida medical malpractice cases will have a tougher time gathering pertinent information on the defendant provider’s medical mistakes.

What is Amendment 7, Florida’s Patients’ Right to Know?

Florida’s “Patients’ Right to Know” amendment (Article X, Section 25 of the Florida Constitution) gives patients the right to access medical records made or received in the course of business by a health care provider or facility relating to any adverse medical incident.

As explained by the U.S. Department of health & Human Services Office of Inspector General, an “adverse medical incident” is one in which a patient’s care results in an undesirable outcome, such as a prolonged patient stay, permanent patient harm, life-saving intervention necessity, or death. This would not be a patient succumbing to an underlying disease, but rather the result of errors, known side effects, substandard care, or complications that were unexpected but possibly unavoidable. Not every adverse medical incident is the basis for a medical malpractice lawsuit, but most medical malpractice lawsuits are the result of an adverse medical incident.┬áPatients or surviving loved ones who are weighing legal action against a health care facility or provider may cite this amendment when requesting relevant incident reports and other records.

Obviously, health care facilities and insurers were opposed to this from the beginning, but state constitutional amendments are tough to change. Recently though, the First District Court of Appeal ruled 2-1 against a medical malpractice plaintiff who sought relevant records under Amendment 7. The appellate panel majority then took it a step further and implored the Florida Supreme Court to reconsider the 2005 amendment, saying:

  • Years of court decisions on the issue have resulted in expanding Amendment 7 beyond what voters intended, in turn “radically transforming” medical malpractice litigation ion Florida.
  • Adverse medical records created for submission to a peer review organization under the federal Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act (PSQIA) should be shielded from mandated disclosures under Amendment 7.

For context, the PSQIA was passed in 2005 – just one year after Amendment 7 – with the goal of improving patient safety and care quality with the creation of a voluntary, confidential, and non-punitive system through which health care providers could freely report medical mistakes and near-misses. The idea was that by facilitating a free flow of information – unincumbered by legal risks – health care facilities and researchers would be able to more accurately scrutinize problematic trends and policies. The ultimate goal is minimizing medical risk to patients. The PSQIA shields health care providers who voluntarily collect data on medical mistakes for the purpose of turning it over to this federal program by classifying those records as “privileged.” They are labeled as “patient safety work product,” and protected from public disclosure.

Is There a Conflict With Federal Law?

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