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Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice does not simply mean the negligence of a doctor.  The terms refers to malpractice on the part of hospital, including care and staff conduct, a pharmacist’s misconduct or error, nursing home Malpractice, or even HMO misdeeds. The investigation and evaluation of medical injuries or deaths caused by such malpractice is a very specialized field of legal practice.   Each category of medical misconduct or claim is governed by particular statutes of limitations and procedural requirements. Whenever a case of medical malpractice is suspected, it is important to choose an experienced attorney to evaluate the claim and determine the proper action to be taken. 1. What is medical malpractice? Medical malpractice is a negligent or careless act by a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider. It is the breach of the accepted standard of care that is recognized by other providers who are practicing with similar training in the same field of medicine. It can result from a failure to act or from acting improperly. Examples would include: the failure to properly read an x-ray showing a cancerous tumor; the administration of an excessive dose of medication; the misdiagnosis of a life-threatening condition; surgery on the wrong limb; and failure to remove a surgical sponge at the end of an operation. There are many other circumstances of medical malpractice in the medical and legal literature. 2. Does medical malpractice always come to light when it occurs? We know from studies at prominent hospitals by reputable universities that medical malpractice may occur as many as 10 times more frequently than ever comes to light through the claims process. We can reasonably assume that the same ratio is likely to exist in the medical care provided outside of hospitals. 3. When should I suspect that medical malpractice may have occurred? Probably the most likely indicator that medical malpractice may have occurred is the dramatically different or unexpected result of treatment or surgery. An example would be serious brain injury following relative minor surgery. Another telltale sign is the failure of the provider to give a good explanation for a worsened condition of the patient or of the sudden death of the patient. There are also instances in which nurses or doctors or other providers make critical statements of prior care. These statements sometimes turn out to be accurate indicators of medical malpractice even though they may never be repeated in a legal setting. 4. Are there some common patterns of medical malpractice? Yes, certain common patterns seem to occur more frequently than others. However, there are situations that do not seem to fit any pattern. A few of the common patterns of medical malpractice are the following: 1) failure to diagnose a condition or to diagnose a condition in time to treat it properly 2) failure to treat a condition properly 3) failure to monitor or observe the patient 4) failure to perform surgery properly 5) failure to order necessary tests 6) failure to consult with specialists 5. How can I determine if a doctor, hospital, or other health care provider has committed medical malpractice? It is extemely difficult for a patient or the relative of a patient to determine on their own whether or not medical malpractice has occurred. This is true because of the complexity of the medical and legal questions that must be answered. If there is a suspicion that medical malpractice has occurred it is advisable to consult with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice. This consultation is usually without charge. By the end of the consultation the attorney is usually able to answer the first question that should be asked, does this situation (including the injury or death) justify further investigation into the possibility that medical malpractice has occurred?@ In order to answer this question the attorney calls on his or her knowledge of the law of medical malpractice and the types of claims that have a reasonable chance of success. At the conclusion of the initial attorney consultation it is common for a plan of action to be set in motion for the further evaluation of the potential claim. This may include obtaining of all relevant medical records and the selection of a medical expert or experts to provide important opinions concerning the standard of care and the injury or death. 6. Should I report an act of medical malpractice to any organization or institution? Although there are state and local agencies or organizations that will receive complaints of medical malpractice, most experienced attorneys feel it is advisable not to file these complaints until an attorney is consulted. There are many consequences of the filing of complaints or claims that should be explored with an experienced attorney before steps of this nature should be taken. 7. Should a claim for damages be made for every act of medical malpractice? Unfortunately, not every act of medical malpractice justifies the filing of a formal claim for damages. There are many instances in which the filing of a claim would actually cause more harm than good. Some examples of claims that probably should not be filed are the following: 1) The patient, after experiencing a brief worsening of his or her condition, fully recovers. 2) The only real damages of any consequence of the medical malpractice are medical expenses that were fully covered by insurance. 3) The patient requires the continued care of the doctor who committed the malpractice. It is advisable to discuss the potential benefits of a medical malpractice claim with an experience attorney in order to weigh them against any downside risks and disadvantages. 8. What is the Statute of Limitations for filing a claim for medical malpractice in the State of Florida? The statute in the State of Florida has several provisions that need to be carefully considered by an experienced attorney in light of the facts of any potential medical malpractice claim. It is difficult to state the applicable statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in Florida without fully knowing the facts of a particular claim. The statute begins with a 2 year limitations from the date of the malpractice, but contains language that could extend that period to as long as 4 years and, in some instances, to even 7 years. In Florida it is also important to know the date when the malpractice was first known by the patient or the survivors of the patient. Because of the complexity and importance of the Statute of Limitations as it would apply to any particular medical malpractice claim, it is critical that an experienced attorney be consulted as soon as the suspicion of malpractice occurs. Once the period designated by the Statute of Limitations passes without proper action having been taken all rights to pursue a claim for medical malpractice are likely to have been lost forever.