Date 11.21.2023

How Does Medical Malpractice Differ From Negligence?

Posted By: Coker Law

You Must Have an Attorney for Medical Malpractice Cases in Florida

Although Florida statutes use the term medical negligence rather than medical malpractice, these cases differ from typical personal injury negligence cases in many ways. The biggest difference is that you cannot file a medical negligence claim in Florida before an attorney performs certain duties.

At Coker Law, we are dedicated to educating the public about how the law works. To that end, we have pulled together some basic information on the differences between medical malpractice and other negligence cases. If you are a victim of medical negligence in Florida, contact our team today.

What is the Medical Negligence Law in Florida

The medical negligence laws in Florida are found in Chapter 766 of the Civil Code. These laws lay out how medical malpractice is defined, the burden of proof to the claimant limits on noneconomic damages, and more.

This law differs in many ways from other personal injury laws. We will go into these differences and Florida law below, but it is best to contact an attorney to review your case. Our offices are ready to schedule a free consultation if you need to file a medical negligence claim in Florida.

What are Common Medical Malpractice Cases?

If you believe you have a claim for medical negligence, you must be able to prove that your injury would not have happened if the practitioner or hospital had responded differently. This precludes some types of adverse injuries from being used to file medical malpractice claims. Some injuries are an assumed risk of surgery or other treatment.

The most common medical malpractice cases are:

Specifically, Florida law calls out doctors who order unnecessary tests. In these cases, the practitioner who ordered the unnecessary tests is automatically at fault. Likewise, your practitioner can be held accountable for not ordering necessary tests.

Who Can Be Held Liable Under Florida Medical Negligence Law?

There are several parties that could be held liable for your injuries, including:

  • Nurses
  • Nursing assistants
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Primary care physicians
  • Surgeons
  • Midwives
  • Obstetricians
  • Pediatricians
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Hospitals
  • Specialists

There are some limits but you can also sue boards of directors of hospitals and other entities responsible for treatment decisions. For example, if needed treatment is denied based on the decisions of a board, the board itself can be subject to a lawsuit.

Prevailing Professional Standard of Care vs Duty of Care

In all personal injury cases, you must show that the person at fault for your injuries had a duty of care and that it was breached by the defendant’s actions or inactions. However, medical negligence cases are more complex. 

Expert witnesses in the form of practitioners in the same specialty as the practitioner named in the case must be brought forth to testify as to whether or not they would have reacted in the same way. If the answer is no, there is a definite possibility of a claim for medical negligence. However, adverse injuries due to treatment when that treatment was reasonable cannot be compensated.

Presuit Requirements for Medical Negligence in Florida

Florida statutes require that many things happen before you can file your claim for medical negligence. An attorney must represent you and make sure that all of these steps are followed. 

The presuit requirements for medical malpractice in Florida are:

  1. An attorney must investigate and submit certification that the investigation led to a belief that there is a claim.
  2. Defendants must be served with intent to sue and given 90 days to complete their own investigation of liability.
  3. All presuit filings must include authorization for release of protected health information.
  4. Mandatory mediation must be completed with all parties within 120 days of filing the lawsuit.
  5. Voluntary arbitration must be completed or denied before the claim can go to trial.

If no settlement is reached, the case will go to trial. However, this is not a trial by jury. Instead, an administrative law judge will preside over the case and make a ruling.

How Does Compensation Differ in Medical Negligence Cases in Florida?

Unlike other personal injury cases, compensation in medical negligence claims is limited by Florida law. Like all negligence claims, you are entitled to compensation for your actual financial losses and expenses. However, there are limits on noneconomic damages like pain and suffering.

The limits on noneconomic damages in Florida malpractice negligence cases are:

  • $500,000 per claimant with a practitioner defendant
  • $1,000,000 per claimant with a practitioner defendant if the injury resulted in a permanent vegetative state or death
  • $750,000 per claimant with a nonpractitioner defendant, such as a hospital
  • $1,500,000 per claimant with a nonpractitioner defendant when the injury resulted in a permanent vegetative state or death

These limits are imposed to prevent doctors and hospitals from being sued for amounts that would no longer allow them to practice. Medical professionals and organizations are necessary, and Florida does not want them bankrupt.

What is the Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice in Florida?

Like all personal injury cases, the statute of limitations on medical malpractice in Florida is two years after the date of injury. However, the injury may not be immediately detectable in medical malpractice cases. In addition, these cases have many presuit requirements. As a result, there are some things that can delay the clock on the statute of limitations in medical negligence cases in Florida.

The time you have to file your claim could be extended by:

  • An additional 2 years if the injury was not immediately discoverable
  • An additional 3 years if a brain injury was the result of a birth error
  • 90 days from initial filing for attorney to investigate
  • 90 days from serving with intent to sue for the defendant to investigate
  • The time the claim is pending

It is still important to file your claim as soon as possible. These things take time, and medical injuries may heal. It is best to investigate your claim as quickly as possible. Contacting an attorney is your first step.

Contact Us Now for a Free Consultation in Your Medical Negligence Case

If you are the victim of medical malpractice in Florida, our firm is here to help you heal and recover financially from your injuries. We have represented many clients in your shoes and helped them get the compensation they deserved.

At Coker Law, we have helped many Floridians get the settlements they deserved for medical negligence, and we are not afraid to take cases to trial. Contact us today at (904) 356-6071 for more information or to schedule your free consultation. 

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