When Florida residents seek the help of a nurse, physician, hospital, or other healthcare professional, they are placing their faith in that individual’s ability to correctly diagnose and treat what ails them. Unfortunately, healthcare professionals are not exempt from error, mistakes, or from using poor judgment. When this occurs, it may be medical malpractice, which in Florida is defined as a healthcare professional failing to act reasonably, or doing something that a healthcare professional should not do that causes injury or death.
Medical malpractice accounts for more annual deaths in the United States than automobile accidents, though the reported cases are actually fewer. In many cases, the victim of medical malpractice may not realize that wrongdoing has occurred. It is important for anyone who has suffered an illness or injury due to the acts of a healthcare professional to seek medical attention as well as legal guidance regarding their rights.
Florida law is strict regarding medical malpractice and has provisions allowing victims of medical malpractice to file civil claims against parties deemed negligent in causing illness or injury. There are many common causes of medical malpractice, including:
- Medication Errors, such as prescribing a drug to an individual that contains a known allergen resulting in illness, or providing contraindicated medications without proper examination and cause.
- Surgical Errors, such as leaving an instrument inside an individual, failing to follow safe procedure, performing the incorrect surgery, failing to sterilize surgical equipment, failing to properly monitor a patient during surgery, performing unnecessary surgery, having unqualified surgeons performing surgery, and anesthesia errors.
- Failure to diagnose an illness or condition, which is a very serious concern. Failing to properly diagnose patients can result in additional harm, illness, or even death.
- Birth Injury is one of the most unfortunate areas of medical malpractice. Before, during, and after the labor and delivery process, providing adequate care for the baby and mother are crucial for a successful outcome. When mistakes are made, both the mother and baby can suffer injury or even death. Common injuries to babies due to medical malpractice include brain damage, spinal cord trauma, prenatal asphyxia, cerebral palsy, shoulder dystocia, or orthopedic injuries.
- Brain Injury can occur due to a variety of medical mistakes, such as birth injury, improper anesthesia, poor oxygen, incorrect medication, and many other factors.
In addition to these common medical malpractice issues, other situations that may qualify as medical malpractice include nursing errors, pharmacy errors, hospital negligence, and more.
How Prevalent is Medical Malpractice?
In recent years, the number of medical malpractice claims has increased significantly. Various scientific, medical, and educational organizations have looked into the numbers to provide more accurate statistics on the number of medical mistakes. A few of the most notable are:
- A study conducted in 2006 indicated that nearly one-quarter of all Medicare patients in the United States died due to preventable errors or mistakes.
- HealthGrades, Inc. conducted a study indicating that patient safety “incidents” or medical mistakes between the years 2002-2004 rose from 1.18 million to 1.24 million.
- HealthGrades, Inc. released data recently indicating that as many as 575,000 deaths across the U.S. were caused by medical errors between the years 2002-2004.
- The Chicago Tribune released information suggesting that as many as 100,000 deaths in the U.S. in the year 2000 were linked to infections contracted in the hospital.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released information that in the year 2000, of the 90,000 deaths reported, 75,000 of them were preventable.
- Forbes released data in 2013 indicating that in the year 2012 more than $3 billion was paid out in medical malpractice claims.
- Forbes research also indicates that around 200,000 people die in the U.S. every year due to medical errors.
What Florida Residents Should Know
Medical malpractice is a tricky, complex area of the law. In addition to the general filing processes, medical malpractice cases work differently than other personal injury cases. Often, expert witnesses must be used to validate the claim and provide information about how the medical error involved caused the illness or injury in the case. It is also important that Florida residents realize that the concept of sovereign immunity has been waived in Florida law for medical malpractice cases, meaning that victims can pursue damages against medical organizations and institutions. Unfortunately, for many reasons, medical malpractice cases often come to a halt somewhere in the legal system and never result in resolution. Some cases take time and patience to successfully litigate. These are reasons why it is crucial that anyone considering filing a medical malpractice claim understand what it means and how the process works.
One of the most important things for Florida residents to know is that state law gives them the right to request medical records showing any harmful incident resulting in illness, injury, or the death of a loved one. Another important thing to realize is that dealing with insurance companies is often fruitless in medical malpractice cases. Often, insurance companies only have the interests of the healthcare professional in mind, and are unwilling to work with claimants. Both of these factors emphasize the importance of obtaining help from an experienced Florida medical malpractice attorney in order to determine the best plan of action.
While it is true that Florida legislation has limited victim’s rights in medical malpractice claims, it is still worthwhile for every Florida resident to fight for his or her rights and seek recourse after an injury or illness. While the process is challenging and often complex, medical malpractice cases can be successfully resolved through settlement or litigation. The key to successful resolution is having the proper legal representation to make sure that all your rights and responsibilities are upheld.
If you or a loved one has been injured or become ill due to a medical mistake, medication error, birth injury, or other medical malpractice issue, contact our office today to set up a free consultation with an experienced Florida medical malpractice attorney.