Medical errors that lead to patient death are the third leading cause of death in the United States—closely following cancer and heart disease.
This sad but true fact highlights that doctors are not infallible and that errors do happen.
Medical mistakes can lead to medical malpractice lawsuits.
But what, exactly, is medical malpractice? And how do you prove it before a judge and jury?
Let’s look at some of the basics of medical malpractice in Florida to find out.
Medical Malpractice is More than Just Error
Any number of medical errors can occur during a person’s treatment. For example, a doctor or other medical professional may:
- Misdiagnose a condition
- Fail to diagnosis a condition
- Misread lab results
- Perform unnecessary surgery
- Operate on the wrong limb or site
- Disregard patient history
- Prescribe improper medication
Of course, any of the above might lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit.
But the sole fact that an error occurred will not always be enough to rise to the level of medical malpractice.
For that, you need more.
To constitute medical malpractice in Florida, the plaintiff must allege and prove by “the greater weight of the evidence” that the health care provider fell below “the prevailing professional standard of care for that health care professional.”
This means that unless the error falls below the professional standard of care for that health practitioner, simply having a bad outcome will not be sufficient to prove medical malpractice.
This does not mean you should just assume that a medical error will not be actionable. Rather, if you believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice, you should consult with our experienced medical malpractice attorneys.
Different Professional Standards Apply
Florida’s law also means that there is not one single professional standard that applies to all medical malpractice cases. Instead, different professional standards apply depending on the health care providers.
It is worth noting that the law states that the prevailing professional of care for a given health care provider “…shall be that level of care, skill, and treatment which, in light of all relevant surrounding circumstances, is recognized as acceptable and appropriate by reasonably prudent similar health care providers.”
In practice, this means that a different standard of care applies to, for example, emergency room nurses and doctors than to general practitioners or X-Ray technicians—making medical malpractice cases complex to litigate.
How Do You Prove a Florida Medical Malpractice Case?
In light of the above it will come as no surprise that proving a medical malpractice case is complex and requires the assistance of experienced and knowledgeable counsel to attain the best outcome.
To prove a medical malpractice case, a plaintiff needs to establish the following 4 essential elements:
- Causation, and
In the context of a medical malpractice claim, establishing these 4 elements can be quite difficult to do.
Take, for example, the essential element of “breach” of duty of care. As previously pointed out, proving this element requires establishing that the medical practitioner fell below the professional standard of care for that health professional.
In most cases this will require hiring experts to testify as to the standard of care for that health care provider and that the defendant fell below that standard of care.
In addition, proving a medical malpractice case requires evidence. Next to expert testimony, generally the most critical evidence is in the form of a person’s medical records.
Causation can also be problematic to prove. In some cases, it may be straightforward, of course, as where a surgeon leaves an instrument inside your body. In other cases, it can be quite difficult to prove. For example, while it may be easy to show that a defendant failed to properly read a mammogram (and so failed to diagnose breast cancer) it can be far more difficult to establish that the patient would not have died had the diagnosis been made earlier.
Finally, unless a patient has damages, it will not matter whether a medical defendant failed to properly perform medical services. You simply won’t have a case. Further, the practicalities of litigating medical malpractice cases (they are expensive and time-consuming to litigate) means that one must have severe damages so that bringing a malpractice lawsuit makes economic sense.
There is far more to know about Florida’s medical malpractice laws of course, but we hope this brief overview will give you some insight into what malpractice is and how you prove it.
Helping Those Injured Due to Another’s Negligence.
Our attorneys are here to help injured individuals obtain the compensation they deserve. If you have been injured due to the negligence of another, contact us here or simply call our firm at: 777-JOHN. We serve clients throughout Florida. Our main office is in Orange Park, but we have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.