A core aspect of any medical professional is their duty to follow a standard of care when working with patients. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional such as a doctor, nurse, or other medical staff or the hospital causes an injury or death to a patient. The cause can be either omission, a negligent act, errors in treatment, diagnosis, treatment plans, or more.
What Are Common Examples of Medical Malpractice?
The unfortunate reality is that we are all capable of human error. This can be especially frightening when we rely on medical professionals, who are also human; therefore, errors occur. Below is a list of common examples of medical malpractice caused by human error or negligence.
- Failure to recognize symptoms-this can occur early on and throughout health scares. If symptoms are accurately documented, it can lead to issues immediately for patients.
- Failure to accurately diagnose can also lead to a myriad of issues. Either through misdiagnosis or lack of diagnosis, if there isn’t a plan or an inaccurate plan for each patient, this can lead to deadly circumstances.
- Lab Results-either misreading them, failing to run tests, or omitting necessary results. All of which can lead to issues.
- Surgical Mistakes- you may have heard a horror story in the past of a medical staff that operated on the wrong part of a patient or made errors while in surgery that caused severe issues.
- Discharge of the patient prematurely- if the patient isn’t as stable as the hospital believes they are, and significant issues arise once they are home, this can lead to an emergency.
What is Informed Consent, and Why is it Important?
Informed consent consists of doctors informing their patients of treatments or procedures they are recommending and all of the associated risks. This gives the patient the option to weigh the risks and determine whether or not to move forward with the treatment.
Why is this imperative in a medical malpractice suit? Should the patient not be informed of the procedure or fully understand and agree to the risks before the procedure or treatment, they may have a case for medical malpractice.
Typically, a doctor will explain the procedure, any substantial risks to the patient due to the procedure, and any reasonable alternatives, including doing nothing. In most cases, the patient will sign a form stating they have been made aware of the procedure and the risks and agree to move forward with the treatment or procedure.
Every state is different, but in Florida, there is another aspect to note regarding informed consent. If a doctor or medical professional doesn’t obtain informed consent, this is only sometimes enough to have a strong malpractice case. Other factors will be considered in the courts to determine whether or not the parties involved are guilty based on this missing piece of consent.
What Evidence Do I Need to Prove Medical Malpractice?
A few common characteristics must be present to have a strong malpractice case.
A significant injury must have occurred based on negligence that would not have happened in a reasonable situation without negligence.
A violation of a standard of care must be proven. Negligence can be established if it is shown that the standard of care was not met. A standard of care in the medical field is a legal gauge to determine whether or not the medical professionals met the standard or fell short, leaving the patient at risk for injury or death.
Significant damages occurred due to the injuries experienced by malpractice. Mistakes occur daily in all aspects of life, not just in hospitals. Suppose no reasonable significant injury is documented (examples are disability, considerable past and future medical bills, loss of income, and more). There may not be a reason to pursue malpractice in that case. Due to the costs of litigation or the time that a malpractice case can require for all parties involved (medical professionals, experts, attorneys, judicial staff), it may not be in your favor to pursue a malpractice suit.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice?
Patients and their families have two years to pursue a medical malpractice case. This creates a gray area because the “clock” doesn’t necessarily start when the actual malpractice may have occurred but from when the patient noticed or is now having complications that were a direct result of the malpractice.
In this case, two years can be stretched further if the injuries caused during malpractice (such as errors during surgery that are not creating significant issues for the patient until several months later) were not noticed immediately.
How Long Does a Medical Malpractice Case Take?
Generally speaking, one to three years is the average time for a case to be completed. Medical malpractice cases are incredibly complex and require significant documentation, expert opinions, negotiations, and more. Depending on how straightforward the case may be, it will affect how long the process will take.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Due to the intricacies of a malpractice case, it is in your best interest to work with an experienced professional. There are some rare cases in which individuals choose to represent themselves, but without a background in the medical field and the law, it can be tough to ensure that you are giving yourself the best chance at pursuing a malpractice case.