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Delray Beach Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Delray Beach Medical Malpractice Lawyers

While personal injuries are never fun, medical malpractice might be the most frustrating and devastating type of personal injury that a person can experience.  While there are physical reasons that medical malpractice can be more devastating, because you go to a medical provider in an already weakened or injured condition, the real damage may be the emotional damage.  Patients pick doctors based on their assessment of the doctor’s skill and expertise.  However, the practice of medicine requires such extensive training that it is outside of the daily knowledge of most individuals.  That can make it difficult, or even impossible, for people to assess whether or not a medical practitioner is truly capable.  In addition, this specialized knowledge can also make it difficult to determine when medical malpractice is occurring and can make it easy for medical practitioners to hide or explain away malpractice.  The result is that many people do not learn of the malpractice at a time when its effects can be remedied, but only after suffering severe long-term injuries.

Malpractice can also impact your confidence to pursue remedies.  The only way to determine whether malpractice occurred is to visit other doctors and seek their opinions about your new injuries and the cause of those injuries.  However, you may not feel as if you can trust any part of the medical profession.  Once you have determined that malpractice caused your injuries, to seek a remedy against the doctor, you have to go to a lawyer and trust another specialized professional to give you the right advice and care.  Even if your physical injuries do not present daily challenges, the stress of a malpractice lawsuit can be immense.

The medical malpractice lawyers at Demand the Limits law firm in Delray Beach are very aware of the unique challenges that come with medical malpractice cases.  That is why we devote the time and energy that each of our medical malpractice clients deserve, working hard to achieve that the outcomes that they need, not just to compensate for their injuries, but also to help restore faith in the ideas of professional standards and behavior.

What Is Medical Malpractice?

It is important to understand what malpractice is when trying to determine whether or not you have a potential malpractice claim.  Malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider’s mistake leads to an injury in a patient.  However, it is critical to understand that not all injuries can serve as the basis of a malpractice claim.  There are many procedures and treatments where the likelihood of something bad occurring, even if the doctor follows all reasonable medical guidelines and treatment protocols, is substantial.  The failure to cure an illness or fix an injury, or even the introduction of new injuries, is not malpractice in those scenarios.  To be malpractice, the doctor must have done something wrong.  Therefore, the doctor is not measured against the standard of other people, but against professional standards of behavior and care.

What Constitutes Malpractice in Florida?

In Florida, determining whether or not a practitioner committed medical malpractice comes down to the standard of care and whether the practitioner was negligent.  Negligence is a legal term that refers to the omission of doing something that a reasonable man would do or doing something that a reasonable man would not do.   When speaking about professional conduct, negligence is not measured against what the average person would do, but against what a similarly situated professional would do in the same circumstance.  Therefore, at the heart of the issue of negligence is whether another healthcare provider in the same situation would have treated the patient in the same way.  This question is not to be confused with whether another healthcare provider would have ordered the exact same treatment; reasonable professionals can disagree about the appropriate course of treatment for an illness or injury.  Instead, the medical professional’s actions, as a whole, are considered.

What Is the Standard of Care in Florida?

Medical malpractice laws vary from state-to-state.  In Florida, a finding of medical malpractice depends upon the standard of care.  To determine whether or not the healthcare professional behaved in a reasonable manner, one must look at the standard of care.  The standard of care is the level of care, skill, and treatment that is considered acceptable and appropriate by similar healthcare providers.  The standard of care is based on a number of factors, including things like the patient’s age and general health condition.  Treatments that may be appropriate for healthier patients may not be appropriate for less healthy patients.  Because the standard of care varies from patient-to-patient, establishing the appropriate standard of care for a patient requires expert medical opinions from other providers.  The medical provider’s behavior is then compared to those standards.

How Does the Statute of Limitations Impact My Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

One of the complicating factors about medical malpractice lawsuits is the statute of limitations.  It is often easy to pinpoint when an injury occurred, or at least when the injury started.  However, it can be more difficult to determine when a patient became aware of the injury.  In fact, because many patients return repeatedly to the same medical provider that caused the injury, when seeking help for the injury, the patient may not have actual knowledge of an injury until years after it occurs.

In Florida, a patient has two years from when the patient knew or should have known that an injury occurred and that it was likely due to medical malpractice in which to file a malpractice suit.  Determining whether or not a patient knew or should have known can become a complicated question of legal fact.  The court may look at the nature of the injury, the medical provider’s actions after the injury and whether they were designed to obscure the fact that an injury occurred, and whether a patient consulted with or sought treatment from other healthcare providers to deal with the injury.

How Does the Statute of Repose Impact My Medical Malpractice Claim?

What makes the issue even more difficult is that Florida has another statute, in addition to the statute of limitations, that impacts a patient’s ability to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit: the statute of repose.  Under the statute of repose, medical practitioners generally cannot be sued for medical malpractice more than four years after the malpractice incident occurred.  In other words, this statute shifts the burden to the patient to realize that he or she has been the victim of malpractice and bring suit within that four-year period.

There are extenuating circumstances in the statute of repose that will allow a patient to file a medical malpractice claim outside of that four-year.  Almost all of these exceptions require further bad action by, or on behalf of, the medical practitioner.  If the medical practitioner engages in behaviors like fraud, concealment, or misrepresentation, which keep the patient from discovering the malpractice, then the patient may be able to bring the suit after the statute of repose expires.  However, the burden shifts to the patient.  Now, the patient no longer only has to prove malpractice, but also that the practitioner took affirmative steps to keep the patient from discovering that malpractice.

How Does Malpractice Insurance Impact My Malpractice Claim?

The existence of malpractice insurance is, overall, a good thing for patients seeking compensation for medical malpractice.  Malpractice insurance means that a medical provider will have the funds to pay for successful malpractice claims.  However, malpractice insurers, like most insurance companies, are for-profit ventures that are not eager to pay claims.  They will happily settle with you for amounts lower than the true value of their claim.  They also have legal teams that are trained to defend doctors against malpractice claims.

What Kind of Damages Can I Get in a Medical Malpractice Claim? 

There are three types of damages that you can get in a medical malpractice claim: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.  Economic damages are monetary damages designed to compensate you for money that you have lost as a result of the malpractice.  This can be due to medical bills, lost wages, and future loss of earning power.  There are also non-economic damages.  Non-economic damages are those that compensate patients for things like pain and suffering.  In addition, you may also receive punitive damages.  Punitive damages are not based on the degree of the injury that you suffered, but are a way to punish the doctor for wrongdoing.

In Florida, both non-economic damages and punitive damages are capped.  Non-economic damages are capped at $1 million.  Punitive damages are not only capped, but they are also discouraged; they can only be awarded if the injured patient can prove that the medical professional intended to cause serious harm.  This means that punitive damages require a willfulness aspect that is not otherwise present in Florida medical malpractice claims.  However, it is important to know that in June 2017, the Florida Supreme Court determined that these caps were unconstitutional because they arbitrarily limited damage awards for plaintiffs who suffered the most drastic injuries.  The court struck down the limits and held that any such limits are unconstitutional.  This means that, for current plaintiffs, it may be possible to get larger awards for non-economic and punitive damages.

Does Florida Have Special Requirements for Medical Malpractice Claims?

 Yes.  In Florida, a plaintiff cannot just file a medical malpractice claim.  Instead, a plaintiff is required to serve the health care provider with a notice of intent to sue before filing suit.  This notice of intent to sue must include an affidavit from a medical professional that states that the plaintiff has a valid medical claim.  The filing of this motion does toll the statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits.  However, it also begins a 90-day settlement window.  During this settlement window, the plaintiff is unable to proceed with the suit, unless the health care provider indicates that it does not wish to settle in that time frame.  If the healthcare provider indicates that it does not wish to settle, then the plaintiff has 60 days or the remainder of the statute of limitations, whichever is longer, in which to file suit.  In addition, a plaintiff can file for an extra 90 days, which is an investigation period that allows the plaintiff to find medical experts to investigate the case.  However, the 90-day investigation period cannot be used to extend the statute of limitations.

How Can I Prove Medical Malpractice?

There are three basic elements to a medical malpractice claim.  The first element is to show that the doctor was negligent.  The second element is to show that the patient suffered an injury.  The third, and most critical element, is to show that the doctor’s negligence was responsible for the patient’s injury.  It is this third step that often requires the testimony of expert medical witnesses.

In addition to proving that malpractice occurred, a medical malpractice patient will also need to prove damages.  Some damages, such as medical bills that have already been paid, or wages that have already been lost are relatively easy to demonstrate.  However, it is not unusual for a defendant to argue that some medical bills were unnecessary or that a plaintiff was malingering and missed work for a longer period of time than was necessary for recovery.  Therefore, you may need an expert’s testimony to prove that those damages were necessary.

Furthermore, other damages, such as future medical bills or future lost wages, are almost always contested if a defendant has refused to settle a medical malpractice claim.  There will likely be competing expert testimony about the impact of an injury on a patient’s lifelong earning ability and the lifelong costs of treating or managing any lingering injuries that were the result of the malpractice.  Because this expert testimony is critical, it is important not only to find a great medical malpractice attorney, but also a law firm that regularly works with reliable medical experts who can help you prove your damages.

Conclusion

Medical malpractice cases are a particularly devastating part of personal injury law.  Oftentimes the feelings of betrayal and self-doubt that come with medical malpractice injuries are almost as overwhelming as the physical, emotional, and financial harm caused by the injuries, themselves.  The medical malpractice attorneys at Demand the Limits in Delray Beach know what you are experiencing as a victim of medical malpractice and are here to fight for you.  Contact us today to schedule a free consultation, where a medical malpractice attorney can review your injuries, let you know if they believe malpractice occurred, and advise you on the next steps to take to preserve your claim and begin to reclaim your life.

Contact Demand the Limits Lawyers of Delray Beach 24/7 for a FREE Consultation @ (561) 600-3555