Medical malpractice in Florida is a specialized area of the law. There is an entire statutory scheme for medical malpractice claims and lawsuits. It’s one of the few areas of the law that requires a formal pre-suit before the initiation of a lawsuit.
A patient that believes they suffered physical or mental injuries from medical negligence cannot simply hire an attorney to file a lawsuit in court. Instead, the patient’s attorney must first, among other things, notify the hospital, doctor, or other health care provider that they intend to pursue a claim. To do that, they have to first retain an expert to corroborate the fact that the patient’s treatment was negligent. It’s a highly technical process, and it takes time to become familiar with that process. That’s why only a relatively small portion of attorneys devote their practice to medical malpractice.
Recognizing a Medical Malpractice
One of the difficulties in representing patients is that many people expect more from doctors than what the law requires. Understandably, patients become upset when there was a bad or unexpected outcome. However, just because there’s a poor outcome does not necessarily mean that medical negligence was the cause.
The law does not require perfect outcomes. The law only requires healthcare providers to provide medical care that is consistent with the care that would be provided by a reasonable provider in similar circumstances. In short, as long as providers provide “reasonable” care under the circumstances, they cannot be said to have breached the legal standard of care. If a provider did not breach the standard of care, the patient cannot initiate a lawsuit.
Another way to look at medical malpractice from a legal perspective is to recognize that, to a certain extent, the practice of medicine is an art form. There are few, if any, formulaic treatments where a given input results in a guaranteed outcome because everybody is different.
Even though healthcare providers know a great deal about the human body, there remain vast uncertainties. Unfortunately, unintended consequences happen even with the highest level of care. That said, patients are entitled to compensation for any injuries, including pain and suffering, resulting from a healthcare provider’s breach in the standard of care.
Basic Requirements for Medical Malpractice
Compliance with Florida’s pre-suit statutory requirements is paramount. The patient’s attorney must complete numerous steps prior to initiating a formal lawsuit; including, obtaining the patient’s medical records and having an expert review those records to corroborate the fact that there was negligent treatment.
There are also specific requirements regarding experts. If the negligent treatment was by a specialist, only another provider practicing in the same specialty can offer an opinion regarding the breach in the standard of care. For instance, if a patient suffered from an orthopedic surgical error, the patient’s lawyer cannot ask a podiatrist to offer an opinion on the care, even if the surgery is related to the foot. This can have grave consequences on the lawsuit.
If an expert opinion is subsequently deemed invalid, the entire lawsuit can be dismissed forever. That’s where an attorney’s familiarity with Florida medical malpractice claims is extremely valuable.
Role of a Medical Malpractice Attorney
Attorneys who are well-versed in medical malpractice are essential for any patient interested in pursuing a claim against a healthcare provider. The medical malpractice attorney is going to have experience with the pre-suit process and other rules governing medical malpractice claims. Not only will they have a sense of whether negligence was the cause of a patient’s injuries or poor outcome, but they will have a network of experts they can tap into to find out whether there was, in fact, negligence.
An excellent Florida medical malpractice attorney will also be able to advise and guide the patient through the pre-suit claim and formal lawsuit processes. Claims can last anywhere from several months to several years, which is why it’s important to have an attorney that is well versed in Florida medical malpractice claims to ensure there are no unnecessary delays.