Why You Need an Experienced Attorney
When an injury results from medical malpractice, our Florida attorneys may be able to file a lawsuit against the doctor, nurse, hospital, or healthcare provider who was negligent in causing the injury. Medical malpractice occurs when treatment by a healthcare provider falls below the accepted standard of care in the medical community and leads to the injury or death of a patient. In general, if a healthcare provider in Florida fails to act where others with similar training would have, they may be liable for any resulting injuries and other losses.
Have you or a loved one been injured by a healthcare professional? If so, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Fill out our free case review form today to learn how our Orlando attorneys may be able to help you file a medical malpractice claim.
Examples of medical malpractice include:
- Chiropractic malpractice
- Cosmetic surgery malpractice
- Dental malpractice
- Medication error malpractice
- OBGYN malpractice
- Orthopedic malpractice
- Psychiatric malpractice
- Surgical error malpractice
Some of the types of infections, illnesses, and conditions that commonly arise from postoperative negligence include:
- Viral infections
- Internal bleeding
- Necrotizing fasciitis
- Infections at the site of surgery
- Tissue necrosis (death)
- Organ perforation that went unnoticed
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Staphylococcus (Staph) infections
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
- Bloodstream infections
- Blood clots or pulmonary embolism
- Respiratory infections like pneumonia
The Importance of Hiring an Experienced Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice lawsuits differ from other personal injury cases because they involve two intertwining areas of expertise: law and medicine. These cases are inherently complex and require the attention and skill of an attorney who is well-versed in both of these areas. The attorney you choose should:
- Have a firm understanding of medicine
- Be able to decipher medical documents
- Know which experts to consult
- Know which questions to ask
- Be able to anticipate the tactics of the defendant
What Your Orlando Attorney Will Do For You?
If you or a loved one has been injured due to another’s negligence, our attorneys may be able to help you file a lawsuit to recover compensation for your losses. If you elect to take legal action, we will prepare your claim by:
- Reviewing information given to us to establish if you have a claim
- Collecting additional evidence to support your claim
- Determining the value of your claim
- Determining potential liable parties
- Helping you understand your legal rights and options moving forward
- Handling complicated technical rules and procedures the court or Florida state may have
While the evidence and facts may be on your side, the strength of your case may ultimately hinge on the ability of your attorney to prove a causal link. At The Mendez Law Firm, the attorneys in our Orlando office understand how to package, present, and explain supporting (and adverse) evidence; question expert witnesses; rebut claims made by the defense through intelligent and thoughtful means; and turn neutral facts into favorable evidence or negate facts that are unfavorable to your case.
What Constitutes Medical Malpractice?
When a patient is injured due to the negligence of a medical professional, they may be able to file a lawsuit. The plaintiff must prove the following elements to succeed in a medical malpractice lawsuit:
Patient/Doctor Relationship: Individuals filing medical malpractice lawsuits must be able to prove they had a physician-patient relationship with the doctor. The patient must hire the doctor and the doctor must have agreed to work for the patient. Medical practitioners can only be sued for acts of malpractice committed within the scope of employment.
Duty of Care: Physicians are required to perform their duties consistent with the medical community’s accepted standards. Doctors and other medical professionals have a legal obligation to their patients to act in the same manner that another practitioner in the same field and situation would.
Breach of Duty: For medical practitioners to be considered negligent, they must have violated the duty of care they owed to their patients. For the duty of care to have been broken, the doctor must have failed to act how another medical practitioner would have acted in a similar situation.
Causation: In addition to negligence, patients must also prove causation to have a valid claim. Injured patients must prove that the medical practitioner’s breach of duty was the proximate cause of their injury. Through documents, further medical treatments, and affidavits from other healthcare providers, patients must be able to show a causal relationship between the doctor’s negligence and their injury.
Damages: The injury caused by the healthcare provider’s negligence must have caused either economic or non-economic damages. This means that medical professionals cannot be held liable unless the injured patient incurred additional medical bills, lost wages or damage to their future earning capacity, or pain and suffering.
For example, if you go to a hospital in Florida complaining of abdominal pain, you will be examined and questioned by a physician. This physician will then make a determination on the proper course of treatment. At this point, you have established a patient/doctor relationship. As a physician, he automatically has a duty of care to his patients—which includes you. If the physician determines you need surgery to remove your appendix, he has a duty to perform this surgery as any other reasonable surgeon would under the same circumstances. A breach of duty is a negligent act or omission, which could include removing the wrong organ, causing excessive damage to the body in the surgical site, or leaving a tool in your body after surgery. If you sustain an injury during or after surgery, you must prove that the breach (negligent act) was the direct cause of the injury that resulted in compensable damages.
Medical Malpractice Damages
In medical malpractice cases, damages are awarded to compensate the injured patient for the harm caused by a medical professional’s negligence. Compensatory medical malpractice damages attempt to make the victim “whole” again and provide financial compensation for economic and non-economic losses. Also known as actual damages, economic losses that may be covered include:
Medical expenses: These damages cover the cost of hospital stays, doctor visits, physical therapy, prescription drugs, assistive devices and similar expenses. When an injury is severe or permanent, the medical malpractice victim may also be awarded compensation for future medical expenses.
Lost wages: Patients who must take time away from work to recover from their medical malpractice injuries may be able to collect compensation for lost wages.
Loss of earning capacity: When patients are unable to earn the same amount of money as they did prior to the accident, they may be awarded compensation for a loss of earning capacity.
Pain and suffering: Medical malpractice damages for pain and suffering typically compensate victims for physical pain caused by their injuries. These damages may also include compensation for emotional distress, which refers to the anxiety, depression, fear, frustration and other mental suffering that can develop as a result of a medical malpractice injury.
Loss of consortium: Spouses of medical malpractice victims may be able to recover compensation for the loss of marital benefits. Loss of companionship, sexual relations, affection, and comfort are among the compensable marital benefits. Loss of consortium medical malpractice damages are typically awarded in cases of life-changing or permanent injuries.
Other damages: There are other damages available in certain situations, including loss of life’s enjoyment, compensation for disability or disfigurement, loss of parental support, loss of companionship, etc.
When nurses, doctors or other medical professionals act with gross negligence, meaning that their conduct was willful or malicious, injured patients may be entitled to punitive damages. Rather than compensate these victims for their losses, punitive medical malpractice damages aim to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
Florida Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations
Under Florida law, a statute of limitations limits the amount of time under which an injured patient may pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against a negligent party. Failure to file a claim within this window could bar the right to recover compensation. In some instances, if there is fraud, misrepresentation, or other foul play on the defendant’s part, the time frame may be extended to give the injured party additional time to file a suit. Due to this strict time period, it is important for victims of medical malpractice in Florida to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a medical mistake.
Types of Medical Malpractice
If anesthesia is used incorrectly, and a patient is injured or dies, the negligent professional may be held liable for any resulting damages. Some examples of negligence by an anesthesiologist or other healthcare professional include:
- Choosing the incorrect drug
- Administering drugs that interact negatively with one another
- Administering the wrong dosage of the drug
- Giving a drug to an allergic patient
- Failing to monitor vital signs
- Failing to act upon changes in vital signs
- Administering anesthesia too late
- Failing to intubate
- Failing to use machines correctly
- Using faulty equipment
- Shutting off the alarm on the pulse oximeter
- Failing to inform the patient of instructions regarding the procedure
There are three kinds of anesthesia: local, regional, and general. Each one is used in different circumstances and carries differing possible complications. One of the most serious complications of an anesthesia error is anesthesia awareness, when a patient awakes during surgery and can see or feel the ongoing surgery. Patients who experience anesthesia errors may be able to recover compensation for their physical and emotional injuries.
Emergency Room Errors
Although the emergency room environment is hectic and rushed, medical professionals are still expected to uphold a high standard of care for their patients. Sometimes, though, negligence by doctors, nurses, and other staff members can lead to serious and debilitating injuries. When an error occurs in an emergency room, victims may be able to file lawsuits to recover compensation for their injuries. Examples of emergency room errors include:
- Misreading charts, x-rays or test results
- Failing to diagnose cardiac problems that may lead to a heart attack
- Making serious surgical errors (e.g., botching an operation, performing a surgery on the wrong body part, etc.)
- Misdiagnosing or delaying a diagnosis, most frequently for blood clots, aneurisms, appendicitis, strokes or pulmonary embolisms
- Making medication errors
- Failing to recognize or treat postoperative infections
- Failing to monitor patients post-treatment
In certain cases, the hospital where the patient was injured can also be sued in a hospital negligence lawsuit. First, hospitals are charged with adequately evaluating prospective employees’ qualifications, including prior experience, certifications and level of education. If a hospital hires an incompetent or under-qualified medical professional, it may be held liable for any patients injured by that employee’s incompetence. For instance, if a hospital fails to check whether an employee has the proper degree or certification and that employee causes an injury, the hospital may be found liable.
Second, hospital employees and staff sometimes engage in conduct that amounts to medical malpractice, for which the hospital can be held liable. Some of these include:
- Making an inaccurate diagnosis
- Neglecting a patient or refusing to offer the patient proper treatment
- Ignoring a patient to the point that his or her condition becomes unstable
- Failing to send a patient to a specialist if his or her current physician’s care is insufficient
- Failing to order obligatory diagnostic tests to help determine treatment options
- Administering the incorrect medication or amount of a drug
- Using anesthesia erroneously
- Misusing medical equipment
- Performing pointless or nonconsensual surgery
- Failing to adhere to hospital protocol that results in an injury such as an infection
Hospital Vicarious Liability
Hospitals can be vicariously liable for any injuries caused by the negligence of their employees, including technicians and nurses, because employers have a duty of care to direct and supervise their workers. This liability covers negligence of employees as well as systemic problems within the hospital, including unreasonably long wait times for the emergency room and infections acquired from unclean instruments.
Hospitals, however, usually can’t be held liable for the negligent actions of independent contractors. In Florida, many doctors are not hospital employees, but are typically employed by the hospital on a freelance basis while they run their own private practices. Hospitals may only be found negligent for the actions of independent contractors if they are found to lack the requisite experience, are under-qualified, or acted with the apparent agency of the hospital. If an attorney can prove that the professional was represented to be an employee of the hospital, the patient relied on that representation, and was injured as a result, the patient may be able to sue the hospital, as well. Some hospitals try to get around this apparent agency problem by requiring their independent contractors to notify patients that they are not hospital employees or by placing signs indicating their status around the facility. If patients are not reasonably apprised of their physicians’ independent contractor statuses, the hospital may be liable for any resulting injuries.
Medical Device Error
Although medical devices are used regularly to diagnose, treat, or prevent diseases, sometimes their failure or misuse results in serious injury or death to a patient. There are three major types of defects in medical devices that might cause injury and open up a manufacturer to liability. These are manufacturing defects, design defects and inadequate warnings. In the case of one of these problems, the manufacturer of the device may be sued if the defect causes injury or death.
In addition, medical devices may be misused by medical professionals. When improper training, inadequate knowledge, recklessness, or negligence in using a medical instrument or device leads to the injury of a patient, the medical professional that misused the device may be held liable.
Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
Failure to diagnose an illness correctly can have devastating effects on a patient and his or her family. Injuries resulting from a medical misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis can leave patients with debilitating pain and lasting physical impairments and, in the worst cases, result in fatalities. Commonly misdiagnosed conditions include breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, brain tumors, infections, appendicitis, ectopic pregnancies and vascular diseases.
To recover compensation in a misdiagnosis lawsuit, an injured patient must prove that the healthcare professional was negligent. Some examples of negligence resulting in misdiagnosis include:
Failing to listen to the patient: When patients tell their doctors that they aren’t feeling well, it is the responsibility of their doctors to listen and examine these symptoms. Should a doctor fail to examine a symptom and his or her patient gets sicker, the doctor can be liable for a misdiagnosis.
Failing to recognize symptoms: Doctors are trained to make diagnoses based upon their patients’ symptoms. If a healthcare professional fails to make an accurate diagnosis, despite symptoms indicating a particular illness, he or she may be held liable for medical malpractice.
Failing to examine medical history: Physicians have a responsibility to examine their patients’ personal and family medical histories. A physician may be considered negligent if he or she didn’t examine a patient’s medical history, the patient becomes sicker, and the illness would have been easily identifiable after examining the patient’s medical history.
Ordering an improper test: If doctors order incorrect tests based on the symptoms in their patients, they may be negligent if their patients sustain further injuries. Additionally, doctors can be found negligent if they fail to order standard tests after observing certain symptoms in their patients.
Failing to interpret tests correctly: When doctors order tests for their patients, they are responsible for correctly interpreting the results. Should a doctor carelessly interpret a patient’s test, he or she may be considered negligent and held liable for any unnecessary injury or sickness that results.
When patients receive misdiagnoses, their illnesses have time to progress without adequate treatment. In the worst cases, this can result in death. Additionally, when patients are misdiagnosed with illnesses from which they are not suffering, they can be subjected to painful and risky treatments. In either of these instances, if a doctor was negligent in misdiagnosing the illness, he or she may be liable for any resulting losses incurred by the patient.
Postoperative care refers to the monitoring and subsequent care that a patient receives following surgery or treatment. Medical professionals are responsible for monitoring patients for complications that arise from surgery or treatment, preventing and treating infections, monitoring vital signs, giving detailed instructions to patients for post-surgical care, and correctly prescribing medicine to patients to aid in the healing process and prevent complications. If a doctor fails to properly monitor a patient or fails to notice symptoms, that patient may suffer a severe injury. In these cases, the patient may have a viable medical malpractice lawsuit.