Florida medical malpractice lawsuits are filed when patients harmed by poor quality medical care deviates from the prevailing standards for their practice, specialty, and region. F.S. 766.102 explains that plaintiffs in Florida medical malpractice cases bear the burden of proof to establish by the greater weight of evidence that the health care provider represented a breach of the prevailing standard of care for that health care provider.
As experienced Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers, we understand these cases are among the more complex torts one can pursue in Florida. Plaintiffs in medical malpractice claims:
- Have a higher burden of proof.
- Must present expert witness testimony from a similarly situated health care provider as the defendant.
- Bring their claims in a shorter amount of time (2 years) than most other injury claimants (4 years).
To help current and potential clients better understand some of the legal complexities of these cases, we break it down by what we call “the four D’s” of Florida medical negligence. These are:
- Duty Breach.
- Direct Cause.
Let’s break them down one-by-one.
Duty of Care
Doctors, surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists – they all carry the responsibility or legal duty to provide patients with care according to certain standards. That doesn’t mean there is never going to be a poor medical outcome. What it means is the health care provider is expected to provide a level of care that any reasonable and prudent professional of the same education, training, specialty, and resources would in the same situation.
To establish that the provider had a duty of care, we must first show that there was a patient-health care provider relationship at the time of the medical malpractice. This is usually easy enough to establish with medical records and testimony. The exact duty of care will depend on the type of health care provider, the condition of the patient, and the resources available at the facility where treatment was administered.
Some examples of a doctor’s duty may include:
- Performing basic medical exams.
- Ordering tests to weed out or confirm a diagnosis.
- Referring a patient to a more qualified specialist when it’s appropriate.
- Promptly informing patients of a diagnosis.
- Explaining to a patient the various treatment options (which may include doing nothing) and the reasonable risks associated with each.
- Disclosing risks associated with prescription medications.
- Actively supervising medical treatment provided on an ongoing basis.
When a doctor, surgeon, nurse, or other provider has a duty of care – and breaches that duty – that is what gives rise to a medical malpractice case. A breach of the duty of care would be not acting in a way that any reasonable, prudent health care provider in the same or similar circumstances would. The only way to establish what is “reasonable and prudent” for someone in their profession is to have another similarly educated and experienced professional provide expert witness testimony explaining how the defendant’s care fell short.
As we mentioned before, poor medical outcomes don’t necessarily equal medical negligence or form the basis for a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit. What must be established is direct cause. That is, as plaintiff medical malpractice lawyers, we need to show that the negligence of health care provider was the sole factor in the injury. But for the health care provider’s negligence, the patient would not have sustained the injury or severity of injuries that they did. And even then, we still need to show that the resulting damage was reasonably foreseeable. That means presenting evidence that shows the doctor or other health care provider could have anticipated a poor outcome as a result of their act, error, oversight, or omission.
Even if a doctor or other health care provider owed a duty of care, breached that duty, and was the direct cause of the injury, we still need to prove damages.
When a health care provider mistake harms a patient and/or their family, those impacted may be entitled to pursue financial compensation, or what we call damages.
There are several different types of damages in Florida medical malpractice cases. For example, economic damages might include things like medical bills, lost wages, or payment for ongoing treatment such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, or medication. Non-economic damages, on the other hands, are more subjective, but they cover things like pain and suffering or loss of life enjoyment.
If you have been harmed by the medical negligence of a South Florida doctor, surgeon, nurse, or other healthcare professional, our dedicated team of Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers can examine the facts of your case and help you identify your options for legal recourse.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
F.S. 766.102, Medical Negligence, Standards of Recovery, Expert Witness
More Blog Entries:
South Florida Medical Malpractice Claims for “Never Events” Can Yield High Damage Awards, Sept. 30, 2022, West Palm Beach Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog