After years of struggling with cataracts, an eye doctor delivers some great news: He can replace your lenses, and you will see clearly again. Naturally, you have hesitations about going in for surgery, but you decide that a future without blurred vision is worth the risk. You head to the appointment filled with hope and trust, imagining nothing but seeing the faces of your family and friends in focus at last.
However, when you wake up after surgery, something isn’t right. You squint in pain because the light hurts your eyes, and your vision is blurrier than ever. “Trust me,” the doctor says, “this is completely normal and will go away soon.” You go to sleep each night praying he’s right, but every morning arrives without any of the improvement he promised. You finally break down in the doctor’s office as your desperation mounts. What is happening? When will it get better? The doctor casually says you’ll just need to wear glasses for the rest of your life and suggests you check back in a few weeks — when he returns from his vacation in Europe.
After months of tearful office visits with nothing but failed hopes, the doctor eventually admits a shocking fact: He performed your surgery based on the wrong patient chart. Your medical records verify the terrible truth that you had a surgery meant for someone else.
This real case is just one of many handled by KL Injury Attorneys that relates to medical malpractice.
Medical Malpractice Laws in Florida
Medical malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor, or other health care professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury. This negligence can come from errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management. In the cataract surgery case, the doctor deviated from the proper procedure when he followed the wrong chart. Rather than solving a problem as intended, he caused further injury.
If you or a loved one has suffered unnecessary injury from medical treatment and wanted to hold a party responsible for damages, it is important to have an understanding of Florida medical malpractice laws.
- You must prove the health care provider was negligent, which means their actions fell below the level of care, skill, or treatment recognized as the current professional standard acceptable for similar health care providers.
- The statute of limitations is two years. You must complete a pursuit screening within two years of the incident. A pursuit screening means you must inform each prospective health care provider that has treated you over the past two years by certified mail that you intend to start a medical malpractice claim. A panel, committee, or qualified claims adjuster must review and qualify your claim.
- There is a cap on damages. Florida law limits punitive damages to $500,000. However, a recent case overturned this limit for non-economic damages, which also covered pain and suffering.
- Florida does not require doctors to carry medical malpractice insurance. Officially, doctors must have at least $100,000 of insurance and $250,000 to have hospital privileges. But a loophole allows doctors to simply post a sign that they carry no insurance by putting up personal collateral, which makes it difficult to collect from them. We share additional information on this below.
- Florida law imposes a cap on lawyer fees. The law says you must receive no less than 70% of the first $250,000 in damages and 90% of damages above $250,000. While this sounds good for you, the intent is to turn lawyers away from medical malpractice cases, which require more expense and effort to take on. However, you can sign a form that waives this cap.
What if My Doctor Does Not Carry Malpractice Insurance?
It may come as a surprise that doctors in Florida must have insurance to drive, but they don’t need malpractice insurance to perform surgery. Florida law allows doctors to choose to have a personal line of credit and post a sign that they don’t carry insurance. These signs have become more common as many doctors in Florida “go bare.”
So, can you sue a doctor who doesn’t have insurance? Yes. Even uninsured doctors must show a line of credit or personal collateral to cover the medical malpractice minimums under Florida law. And they deserve to be held to the same standards as insured doctors if they commit a grossly negligent act.
Challenges of Proving Medical Negligence
To establish a case, we must first show the doctor committed medical negligence. Florida law requires a written opinion from a verified medical expert to confirm your lawsuit. If they determine your case fails to meet this requirement within the two-year window, the court will dismiss the claim.
Second, proving negligence involves a host of challenges in terms of costs, time, and resources. For example, we must find doctors willing to testify against their colleagues and on your behalf. Also, we must track down anyone who may have been part of the medical negligence, from nurses to other staff members, to get their stories.
If you have a valid medical malpractice case, it’s crucial to retain an experienced law firm, like KL, to take on these challenges. Medical malpractice litigators like KL know Florida’s medical malpractice laws, the process and how to gather the resources to properly represent you.
Establishing Causation to Win a Malpractice Case
In any personal injury case in Florida, we must establish that the defendant directly caused your injuries, which is called “causation.” It involves three main parts:
- The standard of care the defendant owed you
- How the defendant breached the standard of care
- That this breach of care caused or substantially contributed to your damages
The tricky part is that doctors can argue that even though their actions were negligent, they didn’t directly contribute to your injuries. It’s up to us to prove that the doctor’s negligent conduct was so substantial that had it not occurred, your injuries would not be the same. For example, if a car hits you as you walk along the street, it’s easy to see the driver directly caused your injuries. But if a car swerves and causes you to run into traffic where you are injured, the link becomes less concrete.
Finding the Right Attorney for Your Medical Malpractice Case
If an attorney declines your medical malpractice claim, it’s essential to have a second law firm review your case. Remember, malpractice claims require more time and resources than other personal injury cases. Often, an attorney will turn down these cases either because they are not qualified to perform the necessary research or want a quick win versus something that may take years to pursue.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, don’t hesitate to get another opinion from a law firm that will treat you like family. At KL, our experienced malpractice lawyers understand how to assist you in suing a doctor or health care provider for negligence. First and foremost, we can ensure you comply with the extensive pre-suit requirements, including having a qualified medical expert verify your claim within the statute of limitations so that the court considers the merits of your case.
Brightside to Medical Malpractice Cases
Florida law does not make medical malpractice cases easy to win, which means they are less desirable for most lawyers to take on. But don’t let that discourage you from seeking compensation for yourself or your family. You deserve to have your case reviewed, even if the doctor in question is uninsured.
At KL Injury Attorneys, we don’t shy away from malpractice cases because we have the experience to navigate the challenges involved and the tenacity to stay in it for the long haul. If you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice, contact us today for a free consultation.