Approximately 1% of all medical patients will be a victim of medical negligence (malpractice). However, less than 3% of those victims will file a claim for malpractice. This means that the overwhelming majority of victims never seek justice. There could be many reasons why. They may not know that they were victims of malpractice. They may not know what malpractice actually is. They may be unaware of the legal process that would help them recover damages. Whatever the reason, every victim of medical negligence has the right to pursue a claim in a court of law, and there is a process to filing and pursuing a medical negligence claim.
First, What is Medical Negligence (Malpractice) Really?
Medical negligence happens when:
- a health professional whom owes a duty to a patient
- fallss below the standard of care reasonably expected of them,
- such that the departure from the standard of care injures the patient, and
- causes harm.
All four of these elements must be met in order for an incident to rise to the level of medical negligence. A hospital can be liable for its health professionals (nurses, emergency room doctors, anesthesiologist, radiologists, and employed doctors) when they treat patients in or for the hospital.
For example, a man goes to the hospital for a routine hernia repair but still has pain and a burning sensation at the the incision site, long after it has healed. He’s unable to eat and suffers from severe abdominal pain, but no amount of medicine or antibiotics helps. A year later, the man is in such pain that he goes to the emergency room, he tells the emergency room doctor about the pain, the futility of the antibiotics, and how this all occurred shortly after his hernia surgery. The doctor orders an x-ray which shows that a piece of surgical gauze was left in the man’s abdomen from his hernia surgery. When it was removed, it was black with mold, which is why the antibiotics didn’t work.
This is medical negligence. The 1) the standard of care requires a surgeon, the surgical team, and the hospital, to not leave surgical instruments inside of a patient 2) the doctor fell below the standard of care, 3) and it made the man sick for a year 4) which caused him pain and suffering, to miss work, and to incur unnecessary medical expenses both in dealing with the mystery illness after the first surgery and again for the second surgery to remove the gauze.
Are You a Victim? Don’t Delay
If you think you’ve been a victim of medical negligence at a hospital, you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. The statute of limitations, or the legal timeframe in which one can bring a medical negligence suit, begins once the injury is known or should have been known. The Florida statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is generally 2 years-absent some exceptions that can extend the period up to 4 years or 8 years for infants.
Before You See a Lawyer
Medical negligence lawyers have to get an accurate history from the victim and evaluate if, based on the history, there’s a potential case for medical negligence.
Medical negligence lawyers work on contingency, meaning that they only get paid if the plaintiff is awarded damages. The lawyers will pay all the costs of litigation, which can run into the tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the case.
So, the best thing you can do if you think you have a good case against a hospital is to be a good client. Before you meet with a lawyer, make sure you know as much of the story as possible. How was your life before the medical negligence occurred? How was it after? Do you have any medical records from the hospital where you were harmed? You may not be asked for them at the initial meeting, but keep in mind that the lawyer may need your medical records to determine if there is medical negligence and if so, if suing the hospital would likely result in a trial verdict or settlement.
What Happens After You See a Lawyer
Your lawyer will decide whether or not to pursue your case against the hospital. If the lawyer takes the case, he will then need to retain an expert medical doctor to submit an affidavit detailing how the treatment was below the standard of care, and how that departure from the standard of care led to an injury. The case will then go through the pre suit process, which is a 90 day period during which the hospital investigates the claim. At the conclusion of the presuit period the hospital can deny the claim, or accept responsibility. Often times the parties will agree to mediate the case during the presuit period, and this often results in a settlement. If the case does not settle during presuit, the lawyer will then file a complaint of medical negligence against the hospital. This is where the work really begins.
After filing the complaint, you may give a deposition and respond to discovery requests. The case may settle or it may go to trial.
Can You Sue a Hospital Yourself?
Yes, you could, but probably not nearly as effectively as a lawyer could. In fact, the cases can be so difficult that most personal injury lawyers do not handle medical malpractice claims. A medical negligence claim is very technical. A medical malpractice lawyer has the familiarity with the requirements necessary to prove the departure from the standard of care, the resources, the money, and the experience to advocate for you in a trial. In most states for most medical negligence claims, each claim needs an expert witness, who is either a doctor or a nurse. Some cases require multiple experts. The cases are very expensive and the hospitals know it. Make sure you chose a lawyer that specializes in medical malpractice and has the resources to handle your case.
Thus, if you think that you’re a victim of medical negligence that occurred in a hospital, contact our medical negligence lawyers for a free legal case review. They can let you know if you have a case, and if so, advocate for you so you’re compensated for what you have lost and endured.