A Refresher on Medical Malpractice in Florida
Despite the fact that doctors and medical professionals are well trained, they make mistakes sometimes. Occasionally, they are negligent, and may make errors that lead to serious injury. In the unfortunate event that you are injured at the hands of a medical professional, it is important to understand what your rights are and what constitutes malpractice. It is also in your best interests to have an advocate on your side.
What Exactly Constitutes Medical Malpractice
Medical malpractice is part of negligence law in torts, but the standard of care is much more specific than that of an ordinary negligence case. Florida law sets out the standard clearly, in Section 766.102 of the Florida Statutes. It states that the standard for medical professionals (not only doctors) is that which is “recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.” In other words, the standard of care is that of a reasonably cautious doctor or medical professional. If a medical professional does not meet that standard, they are deemed negligent.
One might wonder how a jury arrives at the exact definition of the standard of care; that is, how do they know what medical procedures are reasonable? This can be determined through the testimony of expert witnesses. Experts help to clarify the medical issues, from both sides during a trial, so the jury has a better grasp of what a ‘reasonable health care provider’ would do in the situation at hand.
There are a few peculiarities in Florida law of which it is helpful to be aware. First, the statute of limitations on medical malpractice cases in Florida is unusually short – only two years from the time the incident occurred, or was discovered, or should have been discovered with reasonable effort.
Also, Florida has an unusually harsh statute of repose, which is a law that sets a time for when a cause of action may no longer be taken. With medical malpractice claims, even if the injury is not discovered, a suit may not be brought if more than four years have passed since the injury. The only exception is if the person injured is a child younger than eight years of age; then, the claim must be filed before the child’s eighth birthday.
As stated before, if your case goes to trial, it will be mostly about the medical evidence. Expert witnesses will testify as to what procedures constitute reasonable care, and your attorney will try to show that the standard was breached.
In terms of damages, Florida’s system is somewhat complex. It depends very often on the number of people involved and the nature of the negligence; for example, a wrongful death suit may recover more damages than a suit in which the plaintiff is still living. Also, in 2003, the Florida legislature passed a law that capped non–economic (punitive) damages at $500,000 or $1 million, depending on the nature of the suit. That law is now under review at the Supreme Court level, but as of this writing, the caps on punitive damages are still in place.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
Medical malpractice can upend your life and livelihood. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a doctor’s negligence, contact the attorneys at Reed & Reed with offices in Brandon and Tampa immediately. We have experience helping clients recover compensation for injuries as a result of medical malpractice, and are prepared to advocate zealously on your behalf.