Medical malpractice is one of the most frightening and complex types of personal injury cases. Medical negligence claims can come with issues relating to professional negligence, hospital liability and standards of care within the medical industry. It takes a skilled and experienced team of medical malpractice attorneys to represent these types of cases. The attorneys at Kelley/Uustal have decades of experience in medical malpractice law, and we can help victims who have been injured by doctors, nurses, surgeons, and hospital staff. Speak with our Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice lawyers during a free case consultation if you suspect medical negligence has caused you or a loved one’s injury or wrongful death.
How to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
If you experienced a worse health outcome or suffered harm throughout the course of your medical care, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. These claims help recoup expenses resulting from your medical bills and lost wages, as well as address the pain and suffering associated with your incompetent medical care. If you believe you’ve been a victim of medical malpractice, seek counsel from an experienced Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney. It’s essential to act as soon as possible. Here are the steps you should take immediately following suspected malpractice:
Seek a Second Medical Opinion
- In cases of a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, follow your instincts. If you think something is “off” about your medical care, ask for a second opinion. If both providers agree, you have peace of mind that you took the right action and advocated for your health. If the second provider has a different opinion about your medical issue, you might have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, especially if your first provider’s incompetence led to a worse health outcome.
Talk to Your Medical Provider
- If you think that something is wrong, or you need clarification, talk to your healthcare provider before jumping straight into a lawsuit. If they truly committed negligence or missed something in your care, they may be willing to render free medical services to rectify the problem.
Contact the Medical Licensing Board
- If you are not getting anywhere with your healthcare provider, talk to the appropriate medical licensing board. In most cases, this would be the Florida Board of Medicine. These boards cannot force the doctor to compensate you for your injuries, but they can order sanctions or issue warnings to the provider if they suspect negligence.
Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney
- A personal injury attorney with experience in medical malpractice claims can provide a free and strategic review of your legal options. Along with your second opinion from a provider, they can help determine if your provider deviated from an established standard of care and committed negligence. If they believe you have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, they can offer their services on a “contingency-fee” basis, which means you won’t owe any attorney’s fees unless you win a settlement or court judgment.
Know the Statute of Limitations
- Florida sets strict timelines for bringing a civil lawsuit. For cases involving medical malpractice, you have two years from the date of the medical malpractice to file a suit with the appropriate court. If you wait too long, you could lose your right to compensation.
Decide Whether You’ll Settle Out of Court or Go to Trial
- Sometimes, a physician’s insurer will want to offer a settlement before the formal lawsuit process begins. With the help of a personal injury attorney, you may be able to negotiate a fair settlement for your claim and avoid the lawsuit process entirely. In other cases, you’ll need the threat of court to get an insurance company to take you seriously. For this reason, it’s essential to have the guidance of a medical malpractice attorney.
Call Our Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyers Today
A Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney from Kelley/Uustal can help you during your medical malpractice lawsuit. From your very first conversation with your medical provider to the day you receive a verdict on your case, our attorneys will be by your side. Our skilled and dedicated team of litigators will fight aggressively to protect your rights and argue for maximum compensation for injuries that stem from medical negligence. We can help you during this tumultuous time in your life. Call (954) 522-6601, or get in touch online for a free consultation.
Medical Malpractice Statistics
Medical malpractice may not be as common as other personal injury events, but it does happen more often than many patients realize. Hospitals are complicated facilities with many moving parts. A mistake at any stage of the patient care process, from registration to follow-up care, can result in injury or wrongful death. Even the most careful and efficient healthcare facilities can be the settings of negligence-related adverse patient outcomes. An analysis from Diederich Healthcare shows the payouts for medical malpractice claims around the country in 2018. A few interesting facts from this report are:
- Medical malpractice lawsuits total payout in Florida was between $300 Million and $100 Million in 2018.
- The greatest payout amounts stemmed from allegations of misdiagnosis, surgical errors, and negligent treatment.
- About 30% of payouts were for cases involving patient death. Another 18% were for significant permanent injury, 20% for major permanent injury, and 13% for injuries resulting in lifelong care.
- The average payout amount for cases involving brain damage, quadriplegia, and lifelong care in 2018 is more than $1 Million.
- The majority of medical malpractice cases or44% involved inpatient care.
- Over 90% of medical malpractice cases are settled out of court.
Clearly, medical malpractice in the United States is a bigger issue than many realize. Reading statistics about medical malpractice and becoming one are two very different experiences. If you or a loved one fell victim to negligent, incompetent, or careless healthcare workers, you need an attorney you can trust. These cases can easily become complex in Fort Lauderdale and feel overwhelming as you also deal with personal injuries or a death in the family. Let our team at Kelley/Uustal take care of the legwork so you can focus on healing – physically and emotionally.
Medical Malpractice Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is medical malpractice?
A: Doctors and other medical professionals have a responsibility to exercise the same degree of knowledge, skills, and care as other professionals in their position. When they fail to do this, they could be found guilty of medical malpractice. Any deviation or mistake in care could constitute medical malpractice. A Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney will need to review all the specifics of your case to determine if medical malpractice occurred.
Q: Did I waive my rights when I signed a consent form to treat?
A: Absolutely not! When you sign a consent form, you are merely giving authorization to undergo a specific treatment or have the physician care for you. If a doctor, nurse, or medical professional fails to perform the procedure safely or breaches their duty to provide a high level of care, then they can be held responsible for their negligence.
Q: How long do I have to file a medical malpractice claim?
A: In the state of Florida, injured victims and their families have just 2 years from when the patient discovers or should have discovered their personal injury to file a claim. Yet Florida also has a statute of repose and claims cannot be filed more than 4 years after the physical injury occurred unless fraud, concealment, or misrepresentation can be proven. However, regardless of what is written here or on any website, a lawyer should be the one to make a determination regarding statute of limitations or statute of repose. Contact us for more details.
Q: I’m not sure if my injuries were the result of medical malpractice. What should I do?
A: It is not always apparent who is responsible for your injuries. Doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators often minimize the seriousness of a patient’s injuries to avoid litigation. If you have been injured in a hospital or clinical setting, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to investigate your injury, the circumstances surrounding your injury, and any pertinent medical information to determine if medical malpractice occurred.
Q: Who is responsible for my injuries?
A: Any medical professional could be responsible for your injury. Medical malpractice lawsuits have been filed against doctors, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, PCAs, anesthesiologists, surgeons, and even the hospital.
Q: Will I have to go to court if I file a medical malpractice lawsuit?
A: Many malpractice claims are settled without ever going to trial; however, it is important that you are prepared in case yours does. Choosing a Florida medical malpractice attorney with extensive litigation experience is crucial. If your case does proceed to trial, you can rest assured knowing you are being represented by attorneys who excel in the courtroom and who know how to win trial cases and not just negotiate settlements.
Q: How do I prove medical malpractice?
A: In order to prove medical malpractice and win your claim, your attorney must establish several facts beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That your doctor owed you a standard of care
- That your doctor breached that duty of care
- That you sustained injury
- That this injury was the direct result of the doctor’s breach of duty
Types of Medical Malpractice
The legal phrase “medical malpractice” refers to any type of professional negligence a healthcare professional or provider makes that results in harm, injury, or death to a patient. The plaintiff must prove the treatment he/she received was substandard or fell below accepted medical standards. Learning the most common types of medical malpractice can help you know whether you have grounds to file in Fort Lauderdale. The leading causes are as follows:
- It is a doctor’s duty to listen to a patient’s symptoms and make an accurate and timely diagnosis. It is not malpractice if a doctor makes an honest mistake that any reasonable or prudent medical professional would have in the same circumstances. Misdiagnosis can be malpractice, however, when the doctor reasonably should have diagnosed the condition without delay.
- Sometimes a medical professional is simply incompetent or incapable of delivering the appropriate standard of care. A medic who is poorly trained, intoxicated, careless, or otherwise negligent may be guilty of malpractice if these downfalls result in patient harm. Examples include poor pre-operative care, lack of sanitation, and abusing or neglecting patients.
- These mistakes can occur anywhere down the line of people who handle a patient’s medications, from the drug manufacturer to the pharmacy administering the prescription. Issues with medications can lead to overdose, adverse drug interactions, allergic reactions, or poor outcomes from lack of proper medication.
- The labor and delivery processes require utmost care from all physicians involved. Someone may be guilty of malpractice if you or your child sustained an injury during birth, such as excessive bleeding, lack of oxygen to the infant’s brain, shoulder dystocia, cerebral palsy, or fractures. A doctor’s negligence can contribute to these mother and infant harms.
- The hospital may be liable for patient harms if they arise because of equipment malfunctions. If a hospital employee or the institution itself failed to properly maintain and check life-saving equipment, such as heart monitors and breathing machines, the equipment’s failure and subsequent patient harms could come down to hospital liability. If a product defect caused the harm, the manufacturer may be to blame.
Note that a poor patient outcome does not automatically point to medical negligence. To have this type of case in Florida, the plaintiff must be able to prove the defendant owed him/her a duty of care, breached this duty, and this breach caused the patient’s harms. If you aren’t sure whether your recent injuries qualify as grounds for a med mal claim, speak to our Fort Lauderdale attorneys at Kelley/Uustal.
Does Medical Malpractice Include Surgical Errors?
Surgical errors are some of the most harmful forms of medical malpractice. Despite surgeries always coming with certain risks and potential complications, it is possible for someone to sue the surgeon and/or hospital for malpractice if a surgery results in patient harm, injury, or death. This is only the case if the defendant’s negligence or unlawful act caused the damages. If another surgeon would have done the same thing in similar circumstances, the harm was likely an unfortunate accident and nobody’s fault. If, however, one can prove a prudent surgeon would have reacted differently and prevented the harm, it may result in compensation. Surgical errors can take several forms:
- Too much or too little anesthesia.
- Failure to monitor the patient’s vital signs.
- Wrong-site, wrong-patient, wrong-procedure surgeries.
- Puncturing an organ or blood vessel.
- Leaving surgical equipment in the body cavity.
- Nursing staff negligence during pre- or post-operative care.
- Using unsanitary tools, resulting in infection.
- Using defective equipment.
- Failure to notify of potential risks.
Prior to getting on the operating table, a patient must sign a consent form. This form states that the surgeon has informed the patient of the risks involved in the proposed surgical procedure. Risks differ depending on the type of surgery. If you signed a consent form before a surgery that ended in some type of harm, it does not necessarily mean that you’ve waived your rights. It only means that you can’t sue for risks that arose from the nature of the procedure. You may still be able to sue for injuries that stem from someone’s negligence.
Emergency Room Errors
Emergency medicine is a unique area of practice because of the wide range of conditions that are dealt with in the ER. The job of the emergency room physician involves more than just the evaluation and treatment of trauma and sudden illness.
Many chronic or long-standing conditions can become emergent and require rapid and appropriate attention. Emergency rooms are often some of the busiest, poorly staffed, and overworked areas of hospitals. It has been estimated that half of the people who die each year from medical malpractice are killed as a result of emergency room errors.
Common emergency room issues include the improper diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as: heart attacks, strokes and infections. Improper responses to these conditions or others traumas/injuries are also sources of emergency room errors that our Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorneys are prepared to address in court.
Strokes most commonly come in two varieties:
- Thrombotic (a clot)
- Hemorrhagic (bleeding)
Both Thrombotic strokes and Hemorrhagic strokes are usually diagnosable with a prompt CT scan and are usually treatable once diagnosed. However, both varieties require a very rapid response, and in some cases the treatment is not beneficial after a set time period. Too often, stroke patients are either forced to wait long periods of time before seeing a medical professional or they are misdiagnosed and discharged without treatment.
Today’s medications are better than they have ever been. Medicines are used to treat a variety of illnesses and chronic diseases, and can be life-saving when administered properly. Yet, each year at least 1.5 million patients are harmed by pharmaceutical errors or medication errors that could have –should have – been prevented.
Medication errors can occur at any stage in the treatment process. They can occur in the home, in an outpatient clinic setting, in a long-term nursing care facility, or in the hospital. These errors can be committed by anyone in the medical profession, from the doctor writing the prescription to the nurse administering the medication.
In general, a medication error occurs any time a patient receives:
- The wrong dose of a medication
- The wrong medication
- A medication that interacts dangerously with another medication
Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have a responsibility to ensure that patients receive the right drug for their illness, the right dose of that drug, and that the drug does not interact with any allergies or other medications the patient is currently taking. When they fail to do this, serious medical complications can occur.
Types of Medication Errors
A medication error can occur in numerous ways, but the most common include:
- Doctor writing a prescription for the wrong medication
- Doctor writing a prescription for too much medication (wrong dose)
- Nurse administering a different patient’s medication by mistake
- Nurse administering the wrong medication by mistake
- Nurse administering the wrong dose of a medication by mistake
- Nurse injecting an oral medication into an IV port
- Pharmacist filling the wrong medication
- Pharmacist filling medication orders with sound-alike names
- Pharmacist mislabeling medication
- Pharmacist, nurse, or doctor not checking patient allergies prior to administering, filling, or prescribing medication
- Insufficient information regarding co-prescribed medications that may interact inappropriately
Medication Errors Leading to Injury
There are times when a medication error does not result in injury. Yet more often than not, the patient experiences an adverse reaction and/or serious complications after medication errors occur. In 2008, 1.9 million people were injured from medication side effects after they were prescribed the wrong type or wrong dose of medication. It is estimated that 100,000 patients die each year from medication errors that should never occur in the first place.
Medication Errors That Can Lead To Injuries:
- Change in mental state, respiratory state, or heart rate
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Serious infection
- Heart attack
- Respiratory depression
- Wrongful Death
An early cancer diagnosis creates the best opportunity for a patient to beat the disease. In fact, many varieties of cancer have high survival rates – if a medical professional detects them early enough. With advanced technology and treatment options available to doctors, cancer survival rates depend on several factors, such as:
- Appropriately suspecting cancer based on the patient’s symptoms
- Adequately testing for various types of cancer
- Accurately diagnosing the cancer
- Aptly implementing a treatment plan
If a doctor fails to identify the symptoms of cancer, the patient is in danger of additional treatment, amputation, pain, and wrongful death. If you or someone you love suffered the consequences of a negligent cancer misdiagnosis, contact the medical malpractice attorneys at Kelley/Uustal immediately. We can help you fight for your legal rights, including compensation for medical expenses and emotional damages.
How We’ve Helped Past Misdiagnosis Clients
The Fort Lauderdale misdiagnosis lawyers at Kelley/Uustal provided legal guidance to a man who was wrongly diagnosed with hemorrhoids after visiting his doctor for rectal bleeding. After several years of continued bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss, and anemia, the doctor continued to prescribe treatment for hemorrhoids. The man eventually went to a gastroenterologist, who immediately diagnosed colon cancer. Unfortunately, the original, ongoing failure to diagnose cancer led to the man’s wrongful death. With the help of Kelley/Uustal, the patient’s five children recovered $2.5 million on behalf of their father.
Radiology is a specialized type of medical malpractice because it typically involves an image, such as an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan. In short, these cases usually involve a “picture” that justifies the claim. While physical evidence, such as an image, might seem to simplify a medical malpractice case – they are usually very complicated. In most cases, these images are difficult to interpret. A skilled legal professional or doctor might be able to identify an abnormality, but most observers could not, and an unprincipled insurance company might deny the presence of an irregularity in the test.
Our Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorneys have the experience to help you pursue compensation for a radiology misdiagnosis. These cases may involve the following, but are not limited to:
- Failure to identify breast cancer through mammography
- Failure to diagnose dangerous tumors
- Failure to detect bone fractures or injuries to the spine
- Failure to properly interpret cardiac tests
Our Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice lawyers have helped many clients seek compensation for radiology and misdiagnosis cases. In one such case, we represented a man who suffered injuries in a car accident. After a radiology exam, doctors claimed his spine was normal, even though the test results showed a broken piece of bone compressing the nerves in his spinal cord. Our firm helped the man receive a confidential settlement.
Heart disease manifests itself through signs and symptoms that should be apparent to a competent doctor. Chest pain, shortness of breath on exertion, nausea, sweating, dizziness, and pain in the left arm are telltale signs of a heart issue that requires timely treatment. When a doctor fails to identify or treat these symptoms, a patient could suffer a potentially deadly heart attack, leading to further health issues or the patient’s death.
Victims of cardiology errors should contact a Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney at Kelley/Uustal. Let us help you seek justice in the form of full and fair financial compensation. Do not wait to contact us – every day you wait could be the last day you have to file a medical malpractice claim under Florida law.
Common Cardiology Errors
Doctors and hospitals can err in a number of ways in cardiology cases. Many cardiology errors stem from the following:
- Failure to diagnose
- Misdiagnosing a condition
- Failing to correctly manage treatment
- Making a mistake during surgery
- Improperly managing a patient’s medication
Some heart attacks occur when patients do not receive the preventative treatment they need due to a medical misdiagnosis. This can occur when a doctor fails to order timely laboratory testing and imaging studies which can identify a potential problem. When adequate diagnostic measures are not taken for a cardiac issue, the patient or his or her family may file a lawsuit seeking compensation for damages.
Another common cause of injury and death among cardiology patients is negligence during or after heart surgery. These types of procedures often require a disruption of blood flow. If not managed properly, a doctor could inadvertently cause paralysis or death. After the procedure, physicians and nurses must closely monitor their patients for any signs that a blood vessel is leaking, which can cause the patient’s heart to stop beating or the patient to bleed to death.
Ophthalmology Medical Errors
There have been many recent breakthroughs in the field of ophthalmology, and some of them are still very controversial. Some types of laser procedures and lens implantation procedures are widely criticized, but they are still touted and recommended by practitioners (they are very profitable procedures). Many patients are left blind from these procedures, either directly or indirectly. The most frequent injury is a detached retina, which, if not promptly diagnosed and treated, can result in permanent blindness.
Other ophthalmology issues include:
- Failure to treat trauma injuries
- Failure to diagnose and treat eye problems that worsen
- Surgical mishaps
Ophthalmology Cases Handled by Kelley/Uustal
Kelley/Uustal represented a woman who, for years, visited an optometrist for glasses and routine check-ups. One day, she started seeing spots, flashes, and vision disturbances. Her optometrist performed a cursory exam and said that everything looked normal. Over the next year, the problem got worse—resulting in several more trips to the optometrist.
Each time, the woman was reassured that everything was fine. After switching doctors, she was promptly diagnosed with eye cancer. The tumor was so big that it took up 60% of the volume in her eye. It could be seen just by looking into her eye with a flashlight, yet it was not previously diagnosed. She was able to recover a multi-million-dollar settlement.
Orthopedic medicine is the specialty that deals with disease or injury to the bones and joints. When we see a doctor or specialist for a serious health problem, like a bone or joint disease, we assume that they are well-qualified to offer a prompt, and proper, diagnosis. We also assume that we can trust an orthopedic surgeon to fix whatever ailments we face. Sadly, this is not always the case. A number of things can go wrong when a healthcare professional fails to provide a reasonable level of care – and it is always the patient who suffers the consequences.
Common Mistakes Made By Orthopedists
People who have fractures are at an increased risk of developing a potentially deadly complication known as pulmonary embolism. This is when a blood clot develops and blocks blood flow between the heart and the lungs. There are medications and precautions that can prevent this occurrence, and orthopedists are supposed to know, and account for, this.
Other common issues in orthopedic medicine include:
- Failure to diagnose fractures
- Improper treatment of bone fractures
- Failing to recognize post-surgical problems
- Delaying the diagnosis of an injury or disease
- Operating on the wrong part of the body
- Problems during joint replacement
Injured During an Orthopedic Operation
Orthopedic operations are just that – operations. All risks of negligence during an operative procedure come into play, making it all the more important for surgeons to operate with a high level of care and consideration for the patients who are going under the knife. Some of the things that can, and do, go wrong include: anesthesia errors, nursing errors and surgical mistakes.
Laws for Medical Malpractice in Florida
In Florida, an injured patient has two years from the date of discovery of injury to file for medical malpractice. At the latest, a plaintiff has four years from the date the malpractice occurred. These deadlines are strict, and not adhering to them can result in losing the ability to file. There are pre-lawsuit requirements one must fulfill to bring this type of claim in Fort Lauderdale. The plaintiff must give a Notice of Intent to Sue to the defendant before taking a claim to court. This Notice must include an affidavit signed by a medical professional that states you have a valid reason for the claim. After the recent Florida Supreme Court ruling, there is no longer a damage cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims.
How Do I Get a Copy of My Medical Records?
If you believe you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim, your first step should be to gather as much information about the incident as possible. You will need the names of any doctors, nurses, or other medical personnel involved. Any photographs of your injuries can help your case. You will also need the dates you received care and any medical documents relating to treatment.
To obtain copies of your medical records, contact your medical provider. Your provider will tell you where to send your request. This may be a third-party service or a specific office under your provider. Make your request in writing, and keep a copy of your request for your personal records. Include your contract information and medical record number, if known. Fill out a release form that allows the provider to send you the records. Choose which medical records you want – those relating to your potential injury lawsuit or your entire file. You can then specify whether you need originals, copies, or both.