Doctors must follow a set of standards when caring for their patients. Unlike some professionals, when doctors make mistakes or act negligently, the outcome can be costly and can potentially ruin a patient’s life. Medical malpractice refers to medical negligence committed by doctors, nurse practitioners, specialists, and other healthcare providers that results in serious injury to the patient.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to the carelessness or negligence of a doctor, you may have a valid claim for medical malpractice. If you are considering filing suit against a medical professional, a skilled St. Petersburg medical malpractice lawyer who has the medical knowledge and legal expertise necessary can evaluate your case.
What Are the Key Procedural Requirements in Medical Malpractice Cases?
There are often special requirements a plaintiff must fulfill before a lawsuit can be filed. Failing to adhere to any requirements could postpone the suit or cause the plaintiff to miss the statute of limitations deadline.
Under Florida Statues section 766.106, the plaintiff must notify each healthcare provider of the intent to file the lawsuit. Also known as a Notice of Claim, the notice must include:
- All healthcare providers that treated them for the injuries stemming from the alleged malpractice
- Copies of all medical records relied on by the plaintiff’s expert medical witness
- All healthcare providers seen by the plaintiff in the last two years prior to the alleged malpractice
The plaintiff must wait at least 90 days after sending the notice before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. During this 90-day period, they can conduct a “presuit investigation” into the claim if they choose to do so. At the end of the 90-day period, the defendant can choose to reject the claim, make a settlement offer, or admit liability.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for These Cases?
The statute of limitations imposed by Florida State Law is a deadline before which a victim must file a medical malpractice lawsuit against a medical professional or healthcare provider. In Florida, a person must file a lawsuit or claim within two years from the date of the injury. If a person does not file a medical malpractice claim or lawsuit within that two-year period, they may have lost the opportunity to seek compensatory damages for their injuries.
Florida enforces another time restriction in medical malpractice claims called a statute of repose. Under this law, the injured plaintiff may not sue a medical professional more than four years after the injury occurred. This means that, if an injured plaintiff does not realize that they were the victim of medical malpractice after four years, the law may prevent them from filing a claim or lawsuit.
There are certain exceptions to Florida’s time restrictions including cases where concealment, misrepresentation, or fraud were perpetrated on the medical professional’s behalf. In these cases, the plaintiff may file suit even after the statute of limitations or statute of repose deadlines have expired.
What Are Some Important Terms to Know When Filing a Claim?
Filing a medical malpractice claim can be a daunting prospect—especially if you’re not familiar with the legal terms and jargon commonly involved. Fortunately, an accessible attorney will take the time to explain the relevant statutes, case law, and important terminology, saving you the effort required to grasp the essential elements of the proceedings. Adding just a few important terms to your vocabulary can help clear some of the confusion around the claims process.
Here are a few terms you may encounter when navigating the legal system:
- Duty of Care: This is the legal obligation to act with reasonable care. To prevail in a medical negligence claim, you will have to show how the healthcare provider or facility breached their duty of care—i.e. failed to adhere to the standards of care given the circumstances. For instance, if you showed obvious symptoms of a heart attack but the doctor failed to order the necessary diagnostic tests that a physician in the same situation would have ordered, and this caused avoidable complications, it could be said that your doctor failed to follow the accepted standards of care.
- Negligence: This refers to a failure to exercise a level of care that a person of ordinary prudence would take in the same circumstances. In other words, negligence is the breach of the duty of care. Even if a healthcare provider or facility did not cause harm intentionally, they could still be liable for damages if they were negligent.
- Maximum Medical Improvement: Often abbreviated as “MMI,” this term refers to the point in your recovery when your condition is unlikely to improve any further. In some cases, this could mean you have made a full recovery; in others, it could mean that you are expected to live with long-term complications and limitations. Our St. Petersburg medical malpractice attorneys may advise you not to conclude the settlement negotiations until you’ve reached MMI so you don’t end up accepting a settlement that won’t cover your total past and future damages.
- Causation: This is one of the essential elements that must be proven to win a medical malpractice case. This term refers to the link between the medical negligence and your damages. It must be shown that your damages would not have occurred but for the medical negligence. Proving causation may require deposition from various medical experts as well as your medical documentation.
- Compensatory Damages: These are the damages awarded to a personal injury plaintiff to make them “whole” again. Compensatory damages can be divided into economic and non-economic damages. While economic damages are objectively verifiable—e.g. medical bills and lost income—non-economic damages are subjective—e.g. pain and suffering.
- Medical Expert: We have already mentioned that it is necessary to establish liability and causation to win a negligence claim. Often, proving these elements requires the deposition of various medical experts. Our medical malpractice lawyers in St. Petersburg work with well-credentialed medical specialists who can provide credible deposition in these cases.
Speak with a St. Petersburg Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
Compared with other types of civil cases, a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida can be especially complicated. Our legal team has the experience and skills to navigate these complex proceedings and can help you fight for the settlement or verdict you need to move on with life. For a free case review, call (727) 821-1500.