Three Common Questions about Medical Malpractice
A hospital can be a scary place. That fear is only amplified if you or a loved one is injured or killed due to a negligent health care provider.
Per Florida law (766.203), before a medical malpractice lawsuit can go forward, the plaintiff has to prove there are reasonable grounds to believe that:
- The defendant(s) in the case was negligent in the care or treatment of the claimant; and
- An injury or injuries were the direct result of that negligence .
Medical malpractice lawsuits can sometimes be very complicated matters — and sometimes difficult to prove. How does one prove “medical negligence?” Who is legally liable for medical negligence — doctors, nurses, surgeons, technicians or other hospital staff? Will I receive financial compensation if I win my medical malpractice suit?
These are common questions among those dealing with the ramifications of medical malpractice. Here, we’ll look at three common questions plaintiffs have when considering pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
What counts as medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice lawsuits arise from situations as varied and complicated as the cases before medical professionals every day. There isn’t only one type of medical malpractice case. From prescribing the wrong medicine, to inadequately describing side effects, to improperly judging the risks of a surgery, medical malpractice is varied.
The types of cases can be arranged into common types, however.
- Failure to Diagnose: Negligence really hinges on the idea of reasonability. So, if there is reason to believe that a competent doctor could have diagnosed a patient with, for example, cancer, when your doctor did not and you faced negative consequences as a result, you may have a medical malpractice case on your hands.
- Improper Treatment: This can arise when a doctor provides a treatment plan that no other competent doctor would. If a “reasonable” doctor would not have suggested the treatment you received — and there were adverse effects on your health as a result — you may be eligible for compensation. Additionally, this also covers situations in which a medical professional suggests a reasonable treatment plan, but administers it improperly.
- Failure to Explain Known Risks: Informed consent requires medical professionals to make patients aware of any “known risks” related to a medical procedure or medicine. This way, a patient can make a fully informed decision about his or her care. If the doctor does not fully explain or make the patient aware of all known risks related to a procedure, and the patient is injured, the patient may be eligible for compensation via a medical malpractice lawsuit.
What kind of damages can a medical malpractice plaintiff receive if successful in the case?
Damages, or money awards in a lawsuit, in medical malpractice claims fall into three categories. These include:
- General Damages: This includes things like physical and mental pain and suffering.
- Special Damages: This includes quantitative losses, like medical expenses, lost current and future wages and other directly linked expenses.
- Punitive Damages: If a medical professional engaged in an egregious act of negligence, the judge is able to essentially tack on additional financial damages to the final payout. This serves as a stronger punishment to those who acted with gross negligence.
Is it possible to also sue the hospital in which I received negligent care from a doctor?
In most cases, no you cannot. Most doctors are classified as independent contractors and not employees in a hospital setting. Some exceptions to this rule are:
- Emergency room negligence: If an ER doctor provides negligent care, you may be able to sue the hospital as well as the doctor in a medical malpractice claim. This is because in most cases a patient cannot be fully informed of the doctor’s status as a contractor and not an employee
- Additionally, in other settings outside the ER, if the hospital does not make clear that a doctor is not an employee, you may be able to name the hospital in a suit. This is often made clear in admission forms, however.
Considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida?
If you are considering filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida, contact the attorneys at Boone & Davis in Fort Lauderdale. We have years of experience fighting for patients’ rights.