Medical Malpractice Laws & Statutory Rules in Florida: What Victims Need to Know
Florida has written laws that define the rights of victims who suffer injuries and damages as a result of medical malpractice, as well as procedural rules regarding how these cases are handled. While victims have the right to seek justice and financial compensation after being harmed by substandard medical care, the process of filing an effective medical malpractice lawsuit and securing a positive outcome is not always an easy process. That’s why our Florida medical malpractice lawyers at Freidin Brown, P.A. want to provide some helpful information to ensure victims and families across the state understand their rights and what’s required of them.
When is it medical malpractice?
Florida law states that medical malpractice occurs when a health care professional (such as a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider) deviates from accepted standards of care. This failure to meet the duty of care generally arises from negligence and can vary depending on the unique facts and circumstances of a case. For example, claims commonly alleged in medical malpractice suits may focus on different acts of negligence, including:
- Anesthesia errors or surgical errors
- Birth injuries during pregnancy, labor or delivery
- Nursing errors
- Medication errors
- Emergency room errors
- Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose
While specifics can influence the duty of care involved (for example, the duty of care may vary when a patient is treated in an out-patient setting as opposed to during an emergency), victims will generally have a case if they can prove how substandard care led to their injuries and damages. This often requires proving negligence, which can be demonstrated by showing how the medical professional failed to act as a reasonably skilled and careful professional would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.
Statute of Limitations
There are time limits enforced by Florida law that prevent victims from filing medical malpractice lawsuits and recovering their damages if too much time has passed. Generally, medical malpractice victims in Florida must file a lawsuit within two years from the date that they discovered (or should have discovered) their injuries, or at the most within four years from when the malpractice occurred. The statute of limitations is different for cases involving minors injured before they are eight years of age, and there are exceptions in the case of health care providers who fraudulently conceal malpractice. Because the statute of limitation can bar victims from a recovery, it is important to consult an lawyer as soon as possible.
Florida requires medical malpractice victims to first serve a notice of intent to file a lawsuit to the health care provider before they can file a legal action in court. This includes having a sworn affidavit from a medical professional who agrees the victim has a valid claim. The notice results in a 90-day presuit process during which the statute of limitations is tolled (delayed). If a health care provider does not wish to settle or admit liability, victims have 60 days or however long they have left of the statute of limitations (whichever is longer) to file a lawsuit. An additional 90 days can be added to the statute of limitations to account for the time needed to work with a medical expert and engage in the presuit process.
Until recently, Florida was one of many U.S. states to impose caps—or limits—on the amount of damages victims can be awarded in medical malpractice cases. In 2017, however, the Florida Supreme Court issued a landmark decision that struck down these caps on damages and found them to be unconstitutional, stating that they were arbitrarily set and that they victimize individuals who suffer the most severe harm and losses. As a result of this favorable decision for plaintiffs, there are no caps on damages that victims of medical negligence can be awarded.
Damages Available to Victims
Every case is unique, which means the damages any victim is able to recover in their particular case will depend on the individual facts and circumstances involved. Generally, medical malpractice lawsuits seek to recover victims’ economic damages incurred as a result of negligence and their injuries, including their medical expenses, future medical needs, lost income, and other financial losses and expenses. Victims are also eligible to recover non-economic damages (now without being capped) for their pain and suffering and other emotional injuries. In cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct, punitive damages can be awarded. Designed to punish wrongdoers who commit egregious acts of negligence or intentional harm, punitive damages are not available in every case.
Discuss Your Case with Proven Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Our medical malpractice lawyers at Freidin Brown, P.A. represent clients throughout the state of Florida in a range of cases involving injuries and illnesses caused by medical negligence. If you have a potential case you wish to discuss, and want to learn more about your rights, the legal process, and how our award-winning firm can help you, contact us for a FREE consultation.