What is Medical Malpractice?
When a medical professional (such as a physician, surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurse or other medical professional) or a hospital causes injury to a patient due to a negligent act or an omission, then medical malpractice may have occurred. In order for medical malpractice to occur, there must have been a violation of a reasonable standard of care—in other words a medical professional acted in a manner contrary to what another reasonable medical professional would have done under the same circumstances. Patients have the right to expect medical care which is consistent with widely-accepted medical practices, and when a reasonable standard of care is not met, negligence may exist.
There must also have been an injury as a result of a violation of the reasonable medical standard of care for a malpractice claim to be valid. The patient is required to show that he or she was injured, and that the injury would not have occurred if there had not been negligence on the part of the health care professional. In other words, simply having an unfavorable outcome is not grounds for a malpractice claim. Negligence must have been present, and injury must have resulted from that negligence.
Finally, the injury which resulted from the negligent act must also have resulted in significant damages to the patient. Because medical malpractice claims are very expensive to litigate, when the damages are relatively small, it could well be more expensive to pursue a claim than the amount received in damages. An injury must have resulted in one or more of the following: significant medical expenses, disability, lost income, lost future income, pain, suffering and hardship.
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If you have suffered an injury due to medical malpractice, it is almost certain that you could benefit from having an experienced Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti attorney by your side. Medical malpractice claims can be complex, requiring the specific skill sets that our attorneys bring to the table. Our firm has been helping Floridians who are victims of medical malpractice since 1973; these many years of experience ensure our clients obtain the best outcome possible following their medical malpractice injuries. We personalize the services we offer our clients—the attorney you see is the same one who will be with you throughout your case. We truly care about your life and your future, and show that care at every turn, fighting aggressively on your behalf for the financial settlement you are entitled to.
Statistics Regarding Medical Malpractice
According to the Civil Justice Resource Group there are anywhere from 65,000 to 200,000 deaths resulting from medical accidents, with anywhere from 25,000 to 120,000 of those deaths being a direct result of negligence. This puts the number of deaths caused by medical malpractice on an annual basis at 0.8 percent to 1 percent. Of those victims of medical malpractice, only about 2.9 percent will file a medical malpractice claim, which certainly puts to rest the stereotype of patients with frivolous claims just itching to sue their doctors. Because many medical errors go unrecorded, the number of malpractice deaths and injuries is likely much higher—some say as much as four times higher than the numbers reflected above.
A Forbes article stated the Journal of the American Medical Association found that medical negligence is the third-leading cause of death across the nation, following heart disease and cancer. The article also noted that a “quick, honest apology (on the part of the health care provider) might prevent a future claim or provide an opportunity for a settlement without the need for litigation.” In other words, when a mistake is made, if the health care professional would simply apologize, the number of medical malpractice claims would likely decrease.
Types of Medical Malpractice
While medical malpractice can take many forms, the most commonly seen types of medical malpractice include the following:
- A failure on the part of a health care professional to recognize symptoms which would have been recognized by another reasonable health care professional under the same circumstances;
- Failing to order necessary tests;
- A disregard for a patient’s history, or failure to take an appropriate patient history;
- Discharging a patient too quickly after a medical procedure;
- Failing to provide adequate aftercare or follow-up;
- Administering or ordering the wrong medication for the patient or the right medication in the wrong dosage;
- Performing a surgical procedure on the wrong body part;
- A clear surgical error during the procedure;
- Birth injuries;
- Failing to properly treat a clear medical issue;
- Performing an unnecessary surgical procedure;
- Ignoring laboratory reports;
- Failing to diagnose a medical condition, or
- Providing a misdiagnosis to a patient.
What Type of Medical Malpractice Occurs Most Often?
A doctor who misdiagnoses a medical condition is believed to be the leading type of medical error. A Washington Post article found that at least 20 percent of patients who sought a second opinion found they had been misdiagnosed by their primary care physician. Perhaps just as alarming, only 12 percent of those patients received a totally correct diagnosis, while the remaining 68 percent received a diagnosis which was at least partially correct.
The Post also reported that in 2015 the National Academy of Medicine reported that most people will receive a late or incorrect diagnosis at least once in their lives and that some of those late or incorrect diagnoses could result in serious consequences. The conditions most likely to be misdiagnosed include heart attack, a pulmonary embolism, a heart attack, a tumor or an infection. To be fair, a misdiagnosis can often occur with more complex conditions because not all patients present with “textbook” symptoms. Unfortunately, when a misdiagnosis is made, valuable time can be spent treating the wrong condition—or failing to treat at all.
Medical malpractice related to prescribing or administering prescription drugs is also uncomfortably common. A physician may prescribe the wrong medication or the wrong amount, a nurse may misread the prescription and administer the wrong medication or the wrong amount or the pharmacy could give a patient the wrong prescription or the right prescription in the wrong dosage. It is extremely easy to administer the wrong amount of a prescription medicine—if any health care provider from doctor to nurse to pharmacist should miss or transpose a single decimal point, a patient could receive a potentially fatal dosage of a medication.
Surgical errors are what most of us hear about—and what we fear most when going in for surgery. We’ve all heard horror stories about the wrong body part being removed, a surgical procedure being performed on the wrong patient or about surgeons leaving objects inside a person’s body following surgery. There is also the potential for an anesthesiologist to administer too much or too little anesthesia. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “wrong-site, wrong-procedure, wrong-patient” are considered “never” events—mistakes that should never, ever occur and when they do, indicate serious, underlying safety issues.
Thankfully, these “never” events are relatively rare, with one study estimating that about one out of every 112,000 surgical procedures involved a “never” event. This estimate only included surgical procedures performed in an OR and did not include surgical procedures performed as outpatient procedures, where, it is believed, the rate of error is significantly higher.
Finally, negligence which surrounds pregnancy and childbirth rank high on the list for most common types of medical malpractice. Medical problems such as surgical negligence during a C-section, failure to treat preeclampsia, gestational diabetes of the mother, placenta previa or placental abruption or excessive, unexplained bleeding can all result in a bad outcome for the mother and/or baby. Allowing an excessively long labor can also cause injuries as can hemorrhage of the mother during pregnancy or labor. Birth injuries account for a significant portion of medical malpractice claims, particularly for medical errors responsible for the following:
- Shoulder dystocia;
- Other types of nerve damage;
- Cerebral Palsy;
- Erb’s Palsy;
- Spinal cord injuries, and
- Neurological problems due to lack of oxygen.
Some of Our Past Results
Our client was a 55-year-old dialysis patient who had waited for several years for a donor kidney. Shortly after the transplant, he was diagnosed with brain cancer and died. Our investigation showed that the kidney was obtained from a donor who had died of brain cancer. Medical experts were retained to establish that the donor was inappropriate and that the transplant center’s process of selecting donors was faulty.
The case was settled for a figure in excess of $1,000,000.00, though the exact amount of settlement cannot be disclosed per the settlement agreement.
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How an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help
When surgical errors happen or medical treatment is delayed, the results are devastating, even fatal. Diagnosis errors can lead to a lifetime of physical hardship. What is the cost of a misread x-ray or an emergency room mistake? What is the damage when prescriptions and medication errors occur, or negligence causes a patient to die?
Because lives are at stake, negligent doctors, hospitals and staff must be held to the highest standards. As a victim, you have the legal right and the urgent need for just and fair compensation.
If you believe you or a family member are the victim of medical malpractice which resulted in serious injury, it could be extremely beneficial to contact a medical malpractice attorney from Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti. Those in Key West, Fort Lauderdale, Islamorada or North Miami Beach who are wondering where to turn after an incident of medical malpractice can have many of their fears about the future allayed by speaking to one of our highly experienced medical malpractice attorneys.
We understand the difficult position you find yourself in and will aggressively seek to secure an equitable settlement on your behalf. Our cases have been featured in such publications as the Miami Herald and The New York Times, as well as on syndicated television and radio. We are proud of the settlements we have secured for South Florida residents, and equally proud of the respect and compassion we consistently provide our clients. Whether you are looking for a skilled negotiator or an uncompromising litigator, the attorneys at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti can help. Contact Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti today for a comprehensive consultation regarding your potential medical malpractice claim.