Can You Sue a Doctor for Negligence?
Gregg Hollander | June 9, 2021 | Medical Malpractice
When patients experience negative outcomes due to insufficient or neglectful medical care, they may want to sue for damages. Under Florida state law, there are many factors that determine whether a patient can sue a doctor for negligence.
For example, your ability to initiate a lawsuit depends on how long it has been since the alleged malpractice took place. It will also depend on whether the physician failed to provide an appropriate standard of medical care.
There are certain pre-suit requirements that victims must meet. If you believe you have a legitimate medical malpractice claim, it is important to speak with an attorney. A skilled legal professional can examine the facts of your case.
A lawyer will help you weigh your options and make the choices that are best for you. If you have been injured through no fault of your own, you deserve financial compensation.
In the following post, we will discuss some of the most important issues related to medical lawsuits. We will also explore the factors that determine whether a patient can sue a doctor for negligence.
Common Types of Physician Negligence
Doctors are only human. Even the best medical care providers can make significant mistakes. In some instances, mistakes rise to the level of medical negligence. When this happens, doctors can be held accountable.
Some of the most common examples of medical negligence are:
- Neglecting or ignoring patient needs
- Inadequate communication with patients or other doctors
- Failing to fully sterilize surgical implements
- Misdiagnosis of a condition or problem
- Poor performance during a surgery or other procedure
- Performing the wrong type of medical procedure
- Premature release from surgical care or the hospital
Again, even the best doctors can make these mistakes. However, patients should not bear the financial and personal losses of a doctor’s error alone. Patients may have the right to sue for financial compensation.
The Statute of Limitations
One of the most important issues in any medical negligence lawsuit is time. If you have been the victim of medical negligence, it is important to consider the statute of limitations for your case.
A statute of limitations is a legal time limit for certain types of personal injury claims. Different types of injuries and circumstances will have strict legal time limits.
If the statute of limitations has passed, the victim loses their right to seek financial compensation for the damages that they suffered. Under Florida state law, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice is typically two years.
The two-year limit begins when the patient discovers their injury. There can be exceptions to this statute of limitations, however.
For example, the two-year statute of limitations may also begin when the patient should have reasonably discovered their injury. Ultimately, a medical negligence claim cannot be filed more than four years after the alleged malpractice.
If you fail to pursue damages before the statute of limitations has passed, you will be unable to file a lawsuit.
It is very important to speak with a legal professional as soon as possible following your injury. A personal injury lawyer will ensure that you have filed all the required paperwork and met all of the relevant deadlines. Do not let the statute of limitations pass before you seek financial recovery.
You must engage in a “pre-suit investigation” before you file a medical negligence lawsuit. Both the victim and the physician must undergo this investigation.
Typically, the victim must secure an opinion from another medical professional in writing. The opinion must state that the doctor in question likely engaged in medical malpractice or negligence.
While the claimant does this, the physician’s insurer must complete an investigation to determine whether medical negligence occurred.
This pre-suit investigation examines the connection between the alleged negligence and damage to the patient. The defendant-doctor can also obtain the written opinion of another physician in their defense.
The Legal Standard for Medical Malpractice
In a Florida medical negligence suit, the burden of proof rests with the claimant-victim. In other words, the person filing the lawsuit must show that the doctor engaged in medical malpractice.
There is a high standard of proof for medical malpractice because doctors are usually assumed to have acted in proper and reasonable ways. The burden is on the victim to show otherwise.
Duty of Care
Medical doctors have a duty of care to their patients. This means that they must take the actions that any “reasonable” doctor would take.
Their actions and decisions will be judged against those of a “reasonable” doctor in their geographic area under the same conditions.
For instance, a general practitioner will not be held to the standards of a specialist. Doctors are expected to act reasonably, given their area of knowledge and level of specialization.
Specialist physicians are usually judged on a national standard of medical care. They are expected to have a higher level of medical knowledge within their area of expertise.
Breach of Duty
The claimant (or their attorney) must prove that the doctor in question failed to fulfill their duty of care.
In other words, the claimant must show that the physician did not behave to the appropriate standard.
Testimony from witnesses or medical experts can provide powerful evidence to prove medical negligence. Medical notes and records can also help to build a strong legal case.
Finally, the victim needs to connect their damages to the medical malpractice in question. This is another area in which expert testimony is useful.
Under Florida state law, medical malpractice victims can seek financial compensation for:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Lost wages from missed work
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of long-term earning capacity
- Mental distress and anguish
- Emotional trauma and distress
- Loss of consortium (typically sought in wrongful death cases)
If you or someone you love was the victim of medical malpractice, you may be owed compensation. Speak with a skilled personal injury lawyer to determine whether you can sue the offending doctor for medical negligence.