Medical patients naturally rely on trained physicians and nurses for answers and explanations related to their health. It is entirely reasonable to assume that medical professionals will use their expertise to take reasonable steps for treatment no matter what the medical condition. This condition can range from the flu to life-threatening cancers and anything in between. As far too many patients have learned, however, preventable mistakes are sometimes made by professionals, and these mistakes can cause serious harm to patients. In certain cases, these mistakes constitute legal liability.
The legal aspects of medical malpractice cases are familiar to many local residents. High-profile or unique cases frequently make the news,from bizarre stories about medical instruments left in the body to instances where the wrong body part is operated upon. These types of obvious errors occur more often than most would assume. However, the majority of medical malpractice matters are more nuanced, sometimes with patients never even becoming aware that their medical professionals made mistakes which caused them harm.
Because of the challenge of identifying medical malpractice, it it critical to seek the aid of an experienced attorney. Your lawyer can analyze the specifics of your case and determine if a legal challenge is likely to succeed. In all malpractice cases, the same general elements must be shown. Specifically, a civil lawsuit alleging medical malpractice requires showing that the defendant (medical professional/hospital) owed the patient a duty of care, that the care was breached, and that the breach caused harm.
A Closer Look at the Elements of Medical Malpractice
The basics elements of a medical malpractice claim are pulled directly from the standards of “negligence” under civil law and tort liability. The four required elements are:
- Duty: The defendant (usually either doctor, nurse, or hospital/clinic) owed the plaintiff a duty of care. This element may prove to be a contested issue where unique business arrangements are made. At times, a specific defendant may claim that they did not owe a duty because of that arrangement. For example, some hospitals or clinic may claim that a specific doctor or other caregivers was not their direct employer.
- Breach: The duty of care was not provided to the plaintiff. This refers to the actual mistake made by the healthcare provider. In determining whether an error was made, there are very specific standards of comparison that are measured using other “reasonable” doctors in the same situation. Determining whether there was a breach is often the most contested element of any case.
- Cause: The breach/mistake caused the complained of harm. In a medical malpractice case, the plaintiff must specifically show that the error led to a specific harm. For example, a doctor’s failure to wash his hands may have been a breach of care. But that failure to act must be shown as a cause of a specific injury to succeed in a lawsuit.
- Injury: A preventable harm occurred. This is usually an obvious element, but in some rare cases, whether an injury occurred may be contested.
If all four of these elements are shown, then patients are able to recover various “damages” as financial compensation for the error. An attorney can explain exactly what type of award is possible, though the awards are generally labeled as either compensatory (like lost wages and medical bills) or non-economic (like pain and suffering). The Florida Supreme Court ruled in March of 2014 that the amount in non-economic damages a court could award would no longer be capped, which is contrary to a law that was previously enforced in the state.
Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of a medical mistake, it is recommended to contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your rights and any potential legal claims. The experienced team of attorneys at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. have years of experiences successfully representing clients in these types of matters. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. Our offices are located in Dade, Broward, and Monroe Counties.