Orlando Attorneys Specializing in Medical Negligence
No one expects to be hurt by a healthcare professional.
When you go to the doctor’s office or to a hospital, you trust that the doctor will make you stop hurting, that the surgeon will fix what is wrong with you, and that the nurses and hospital staff will give you the care and support that you need to heal.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Between 210,000 and 440,000 patients in hospitals suffer some type of preventable harm that causes their deaths every single year. A 2016 report in U.S. News placed the number at a minimum of 250,000 annually, and noted that this accounts for approximately 10% of all deaths in the U.S. Some researchers believe these counts are low, since many cases go unreported.
When a healthcare professional makes a serious mistake that hurts a patient, that professional should be held responsible for the harm that they have caused. This means providing compensation to the patient for their medical bills, lost time from work, pain and suffering, and any disfigurement caused by the mistake.
A medical malpractice lawsuit is often required to recover such losses. Our legal team at Orlando’s Faiella & Gulden, P.A., has extensive experience with the difficulties inherent in these claims and our attorneys have pursued successful results for their clients. When you call (407) 647-6111 for a free consultation, our compassionate medical malpractice attorneys will sit down with you to hear your story and explain your options for medical and financial recovery.
What Is "Medical Malpractice"?
When a doctor or other healthcare provider causes harm to a patient, it’s unfortunate. If the cause of this harm was negligence, then it’s medical malpractice.
Under Florida law, doctors and other healthcare professionals have a duty to provide patients with what is known as the accepted "standard of care.” This means that a doctor is expected to give the same care to a patient that another doctor, in the same practice area, would provide under similar circumstances. When the doctor does not act as a reasonable doctor would in a like situation, and this causes the patient harm, then that doctor has breached his or her duty of care to the patient.
What Kinds of Mistakes Lead to Medical Malpractice?
Not every hospital or physician error is grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. These are the types of errors that, historically, have led to lawsuits for medical malpractice (although this is not a complete list, by far):
- Diagnostic errors. This type of error occurs when, for example, a doctor fails to diagnose cancer while it is in an early stage, and the disease is allowed to progress to the point that it is no longer treatable. According to a study published in 2017, missed diagnoses accounted for approximately 22% of medical malpractice claims. Moreover, patients who suffer these errors face a twofold increase in their risk of death.
- Medication errors. Thousands of people die each year because of preventable medication errors. This problem has far reaching implications for patients in the United States, since it is estimated that 80% of U.S. adults take some form of medication.
- Surgical errors. During surgery, patients are in a particularly vulnerable state, since they are at the complete mercy of their surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and medical assistants. Slicing the wrong nerve, rupturing an artery, failing to maintain blood supply, or leaving a surgical sponge in the patient’s abdomen are all examples of surgical errors.
- Hospital infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day, about 1 in 25 patients contracts an infection in the United States. Oftentimes, these infections are completely avoidable, and are caused by poor cleaning practices, improperly sterilized tools, or doctors and nurses failing to scrub their hands properly.
- Miscommunication. Many injuries arise from poor communication between the members of the patient’s healthcare team. For example, a nurse may fail to communicate a patient’s allergy to a medication to the rest of the healthcare team, and the patient’s doctor later administers the drug to the patient.
Florida’s Medical Malpractice Rules
The statute of limitations
A "statute of limitations" is a deadline for filing a civil lawsuit after an "incident" – that is, the cause of the harm or death to a person – occurs. Usually, your time to file suit time starts running out from the moment the incident occurs.
Every state has its own deadlines, and these can vary. Generally speaking, Florida’s statute of limitations for medical malpractice is two years. This means that you must file suit within two years of when you actually discovered the incident or when it would have been “reasonable” to discover the incident, whichever is sooner. But, there are a few exceptions.
- You generally must discover the incident within 4 years of it occurring in order to file suit, unless your suit applies to a claim on behalf of a child under the age of 8 years old.
- However, if you were prevented from discovering the incident within the necessary time frames because of fraud, concealment, or an intentional misrepresentation, you have an additional two years from the time that you discovered the incident (or should reasonably have discovered it) within which to file suit.
- In cases involving fraud, concealment, or misrepresentation, the overall time limit for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is 7 years, unless the claim is on behalf of a child under the age of 8 years old.
It is important to note that, under certain circumstances, these time frames can frozen (or “tolled”) under Florida law, allowing victims of malpractice additional time within which to file a lawsuit for medical malpractice.
There is a specific statute in Florida that states that, in order to bring a medical malpractice case, a patient must have a healthcare provider of the same kind as the potential defendant sign an affidavit attesting to the merit of the patient’s case. Once the potential Defendant receives this affidavit by certified mail, along with other necessary documents, a 90-day waiting period begins. It is only after this period has ended that the patient can formally sue the defendant.
No Cap on Non-Economic Damages
In June 2017, the Florida Supreme Court struck down the state’s cap on non-economic (or “pain and suffering”) damages in medical malpractice cases where a healthcare provider has caused an injury to a patient. The Court had already struck down caps on these damages in the medical malpractice context for the wrongful death of a patient.
For victims, these rulings mean that, with a few exceptions, compensation for things like mental anguish, anxiety, loss of companionship, disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life, are unlimited.
Why Medical Malpractice Cases Are Vital
Healthcare professionals and insurance companies sometimes claim that medical malpractice litigation promotes an unreasonable standard of perfection from doctors. They often argue that this causes doctors to practice "defensive medicine"---meaning, they order unnecessary tests, over-treat patients, prescribe extra drugs, and shy away from performing "risky" procedures.
But what about the patients?
Let’s look at a famous example. Jesica Santillan was a 17-year-old girl who needed a heart and lung transplant. After waiting for three years, she finally had her transplant surgery at Duke University Hospital. However, the heart and lungs that the surgeon transplanted into her body were of the wrong blood type. Jesica’s system attacked the donor organs, sending her into a coma. She died a few weeks later. The hospital blamed the mix up on the surgical team’s failure to communicate.
This story exemplifies why medical malpractice lawsuits exist: so that families like Jesica’s, who are affected by outrageous and preventable medical mistakes, have an avenue through which to pursue justice.
Medical malpractice cases result in the creation of safer, more patient-centered policies in both doctors’ offices and in hospitals. When medical providers are held accountable for their conduct, they learn from their mistakes, and the mistakes of their colleagues. This helps to make medical care safer for their patients.
Speak to the Medical Malpractice Attorneys at Faiella & Gulden, P.A.
Cases involving in-depth medical knowledge are difficult cases for an attorney to handle, and they can be difficult to prove. In fact, in the United States, only about one-third of medical malpractice claimants end up winning their lawsuits.
At Faiella & Gulden, P.A., we have the specialized knowledge and the experience that is required to win these cases. We are passionate about working in this demanding area, because we want to improve medical care for everyone, and because we don’t want what has happened to our clients to happen to another patient again. We are proud of the work that we do and feel honored when a client allows us to be with them in their struggles.
There is no fee to talk to us. Our cases usually begin with a phone conference, and then we meet with you, face to face. And, if we decide to take on your case, you pay nothing unless we reach a settlement or a verdict in your favor. If you have any questions or would like to set up a free consultation, call (407) 647-6111.
We require no legal retainer or upfront fees, and you pay nothing unless we prevail. Call us for your free consultation.