When you seek medical attention, you’re placing immense trust in the hands of healthcare professionals. Your expectation is to receive care that addresses your health concerns and safeguards your well-being.
Regrettably, there are instances where this trust is betrayed due to errors, carelessness, or sheer negligence by these professionals. The consequences? Life-changing injuries, insurmountable medical bills, loss of livelihood, emotional trauma, or, in the most tragic cases, the loss of life.
If you or a family member have been at the receiving end of such negligence, know you have rights. By filing a medical malpractice claim, you may be eligible to secure compensation to mitigate medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress.
Should you need immediate assistance or have specific concerns, reach out to us at (561) 473-9800 for a no-obligation consultation with an experienced West Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyer. Your well-being and justice are our top priority. You don’t need to suffer alone!
Next, we’ll provide an overview of key aspects you need to know concerning medical malpractice claims in South Florida.
What is Medical Malpractice?
The term often tossed around in such distressing situations is “medical malpractice.” But what does this entail?
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional’s negligent actions or omissions, such as errors in diagnosis or treatment, cause harm to a patient.
However, not every mistake or undesirable outcome qualifies as malpractice. For an act to be legally identified as medical malpractice, the following key elements must be present:
- Duty of Care: The healthcare provider must have had a duty of care towards the patient. This duty is established when a doctor-patient relationship is formed. For instance, a duty of care exists if a doctor agrees to treat a patient.
- Breach of Duty: The healthcare provider failed to conform to the appropriate standard of care expected in similar circumstances. This standard varies based on several factors, including the patient’s age, overall health, and specific medical condition.
- Injury or Harm: The patient suffered an injury or harm. This harm can be physical, emotional, or financial.
- Direct Causation: The breach of duty directly caused the patient’s injury or harm. This means that the injury or harm would not have occurred without the healthcare provider’s negligent action or inaction.
Medical malpractice is also not limited to doctors. Nurses, therapists, medical facilities, and other healthcare entities can also be held liable for malpractice.
However, simply being unhappy with treatment or its results does not imply malpractice. The medical professional’s conduct must deviate from the accepted standard of practice in the medical community and must result in harm in a way that could have been anticipated.
Time Limits for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim
In Florida, medical malpractice claims must be filed within two years of the date the injury was discovered or should have reasonably been discovered. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as cases involving minors or individuals with mental disabilities.
Once you’ve determined the need to file a claim, the journey begins. One of the first stages you’ll encounter is the pre-suit investigation process.
The Pre-Suit Investigation Process
Before taking formal legal action, there’s a critical phase known as the pre-suit investigation process. Here’s what it entails:
Compilation of Evidence
This is the initial stage where your attorney gathers all relevant medical records, treatment details, testimonies, and any other crucial documentation. This evidence forms the backbone of your claim.
Engagement of Medical Experts
For your claim to hold weight, an expert opinion is often sought to ascertain whether the care you received deviated from the expected standard. These professionals can shed light on intricate medical nuances, lending credibility to your case.
Notice of Intent
A pivotal step in the process, the Notice of Intent is more than just a formality. It’s a document sent to the alleged negligent party, signaling the intent to file a lawsuit. This notice provides the accused party with specific details of the alleged malpractice and the injuries sustained.
Under Florida law, the recipient of the Notice of Intent is granted a 90-day window to evaluate the claim before litigation can begin.
During the pre-suit phase, as the accused reviews your claim, there’s also a chance to settle before going to court.
When dealing with medical malpractice claims, you might think about settling outside of court. Here’s why:
- Efficiency: Settlements often translate to a quicker resolution than a trial, which could stretch out over extended periods.
- Cost-Effectiveness: Both parties can save on considerable legal fees and court costs.
- Reduced Emotional Strain: The adversarial nature of a trial can be draining. Settlements can avoid the emotional toll associated with public litigation.
- Certainty: A settlement guarantees a certain outcome, while trials, with their inherent unpredictability, do not.
When direct negotiations between the parties don’t yield a resolution, an impartial mediator can guide a structured discussion toward agreement.
A trial becomes the next step when attempts to solve things outside of court don’t work. Here’s a brief breakdown of what happens during this formal legal process:
Before the trial begins, both sides get to see the evidence the other side will use. This is called the discovery phase.
Everyone gets a clear picture of what they’re up against. This process helps lawyers prepare their strategies, figure out what evidence they’ll present, and decide who they’ll call as witnesses.
This is the main event. Here, both parties lay out their case. They present evidence, bring in witnesses to testify, and make arguments to support their side. The goal is to persuade a judge or a jury about what really happened.
All the evidence is laid out and examined. This might include medical records, expert testimonies, or other relevant documents.
Witnesses, including experts, are brought in. They give their version of events or provide specialized knowledge that helps clarify technical points.
After listening to everything, the judge or jury renders their verdict. This decision, called a judgment, is based on the facts presented and the law. It determines whether the healthcare provider was at fault and, if so, how much compensation you should receive.
For more information about the specific limitations on potential damages in Florida, our previous article delves deeper into “Are There Florida Medical Malpractice Caps on Medical Malpractice Damages?” It provides a comprehensive understanding of any caps that might affect your compensation.
A trial verdict might seem like the final step, but the legal journey can extend beyond this.
Even after the trial ends, things aren’t always wrapped up. Here’s what might still need to happen:
Not everyone agrees with a trial’s outcome. If one side thinks a mistake was made during the trial or disagrees with the judgment, they can appeal.
This means they’re asking a higher court to review the case. This isn’t about re-trying the case but checking whether legal procedures were followed correctly.
Once the appeals process is exhausted and a final decision is reached, attention turns to compensation.
The awarded compensation isn’t instantly released upon securing a favorable verdict or reaching a settlement agreement. Administrative procedures can introduce delays, including those tied to settlement agreements and essential paperwork.
Once these procedural requirements are met, the funds are disbursed, covering medical expenses, compensating for lost earnings, and offsetting other related damages.
Facing Medical Negligence in South Florida? DiBiaggio Law Stands By Your Side
In the wake of a medical malpractice injury, it’s natural to feel lost and uncertain about the next steps. As you search online for “medical malpractice attorneys near me,” it’s essential to find a team that understands the legal complexities and the emotional strain you’re under.
Under the leadership of West Palm Beach personal injury lawyer Deirdre DiBiaggio, our firm has tirelessly advocated for the rights of medical malpractice victims across Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe Counties for over three decades. We are deeply aware of the physical, emotional, and financial distress such events can cause and are here to help.
Call us today at (561) 473-9800 or complete our online form to book your FREE consultation with a West Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyer. Let us shoulder the legal burden while you focus on healing and recovery.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.