Understanding the Basics of a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Any time you meet with a doctor or other medical professional, you expect the highest level of attention, care, and skill. Most of the time when we receive medical treatment, everything is what we expect it to be, and sometimes, a doctor goes above and beyond what is expected of them. But what if something goes wrong? Maybe a surgery goes doesn't go as planned, a doctor fails to diagnosis you in a timely manner or maybe they fail to provide proper treatment. When is mistreatment considered medical malpractice? Here are the basics of a medical malpractice lawsuit:

What Is Medical Malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other medical professional harms a patient through his or her negligence and fails to competently perform his or her medical duties. Not all medical mistakes are considered medical malpractice. It's important to understand that just because a doctor made a mistake or you're not happy with the course of treatment or outcome doesn't mean that malpractice necessarily occurred. In order to meet the legal definition of medical malpractice, a doctor or medical professional must have been negligent in some way, and you must have been harmed as a direct result of the negligence.

A wide variety of situations can lead to a medical malpractice claim. Common types of medical malpractice include misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, childbirth injuries, medication errors, anesthesia errors, and surgery errors.

Basic Requirements for Filing a Claim

To prove that medical malpractice occurred, you must be able to show the following things:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed: Before filing a medical malpractice claim, you must be able to show that a relationship existed between you and the doctor you are suing. This means that you hired the doctor to perform a service and the doctor agreed to be hired. If you've been seeing the doctor regularly and they've been treating you, it's fairly easy to prove that a physician-patient relationship existed.
  • The doctor was negligent: Just because you're unhappy with your treatment or the results doesn't mean your doctor is liable for medical malpractice. In order for it to be considered medical malpractice, you need to prove that the doctor was negligent in your diagnosis or treatment. You also need to prove that the doctor caused harm in a way that a competent doctor would not have under the same circumstances. Most states require that you present a medical expert to discuss the appropriate medical standard of care and how your doctor deviated from that standard.
  • The doctor's negligence caused the injury: Many malpractice claims involve patients who are already sick or injured, and there is often a question about whether the doctor actually caused the harm. You must be able to show that it is "more likely than not" that the doctor's negligence directly caused the injury. This is another area where it's helpful to have a medical expert testify on your behalf.
  • The injury led to specific damages: Even if it's obvious that a doctor was negligent in their duties, you can't sue for malpractice if you didn't suffer any harm. Some of the most common types of harm that you can sue for include physical pain, mental anguish, additional medical bills, lost work, and lost earning capacity.

Statute of Limitations in Florida

The statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice suit in Florida is governed by Florida Statute 95.11(4)(b). The law states that you must file a medical malpractice suit within two years of the date on which the harm resulting from the malpractice was discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence. There is also a blanket deadline of four years from the date of the alleged medical malpractice, regardless of when you discovered the harm.

If you believe that you have a medical malpractice lawsuit, the best thing you can do is to meet with an experienced personal injury attorney (link to the personal injury page) as soon as possible to discuss the merits of your claim. They'll be able to review your case with you and help you determine if you have a legitimate medical malpractice case.