This is a common question asked by our clients, answered by Coker Law attorney Lindsay Tygart. A medical malpractice case in Florida is much different than a motor vehicle crash, slip and fall or another type of personal injury accident. Medical negligence is governed by state statutes and interpreted through case law. Additionally, Florida’s legislature has taken many steps to make it more difficult for individuals to seek compensation against health care providers. This makes medical malpractice cases more challenging for injury victims to win than in other personal injury cases.
While it is difficult to obtain damages from medical negligence, that does not mean it is impossible. It takes a thorough investigation of the facts, including a detailed analysis of your medical records, to prove whether medical malpractice occurred. The testimony from a licensed medical expert in Florida must further establish that the victim failed to receive an appropriate level of care from his or her physician and that this care caused the victim’s injuries.
Due to the complexities of every medical malpractice case, it is important for your attorney to have as many facts as possible. The first step I take when working on these cases is to speak to the victim to obtain a detailed story and timeline. Tragically, many medical malpractice cases result in death, which means speaking with the victim’s family to better understand the circumstances of the medical negligence.
The second crucial element of the investigation is a review of the victim’s medical records. It is imperative that the malpractice can be proven through the medical records. Otherwise, a medical malpractice case can quickly devolve into a he-said, she-said argument between the physician and the patient. These types of situations rarely produce outcomes that are favorable for victims and their families. By proving malpractice through the records, you can avoid these otherwise unwinnable disputes.
Obtaining medical records involves a lot of red tape and pitfalls that can trip you up. These legal hurdles can slow down your case and get you into trouble during this process. It is a good idea to consult with an attorney who focuses on this area of law and can help you avoid unnecessary headaches.
The next step toward proving medical negligence is to submit the medical records to a qualified medical expert in Florida for an independent review. The medical expert must be someone who shares the same specialty as the potential defendant. For example, if an individual is pursuing a medical malpractice case against an emergency room doctor, the medical expert must also work as an emergency room physician.
There are two key questions that the medical expert will need to determine. The first is whether the care the victim received deviates from the national standards of care. The second, and more difficult question to answer, is whether the care receive caused the injuries. It is not enough for a doctor to provide care that deviates from standard care. Their action or inaction must have caused or substantially contributed to the injury to proceed with a medical malpractice case.
If the medical expert can demonstrate a deviation from standard levels of care and causation, a medical malpractice claim will enter presuit. This is a 90-day period where the health care provider will conduct their own good faith investigation to determine whether any deviations occurred. After 90 days, the health care provider may offer money to settle the case, deny the claim or do nothing. It is at this point that you and your attorney can legally file a lawsuit against the negligent parties.
The statute of limitations for most personal injury cases in Florida is four years. For medical malpractice, it is only two years. Failing to act within this time frame can leave you and your loved ones unable to recover the damages you deserve for your injuries. It is prudent to speak with a qualified medical malpractice lawyer so that you understand your rights and meet all legal obligations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Lindsay Tygart is a member of Super Lawyers. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The patented selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.
Ms. Tygart can be reached at her email address: firstname.lastname@example.org