Harmed by a Doctor’s Negligence? Basic Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim

If you or a loved one was seriously harmed by a doctor or hospital’s negligence in Florida, it is imperative to quickly consult with an experienced Florida medical malpractice attorney. Medical malpractice occurs when a patient is harmed by a doctor, or other medical professional, who fails to competently perform his or her medical duties. In Florida, medical malpractice claims fall under a two-year statute of limitations. This means that a patient has two years, starting from the date of the injury or when a patient reasonably determines he or she was injured, to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Basic Requirements for a Malpractice Claim

To prove medical malpractice occurred, a plaintiff must prove the following four elements:

  • doctor-patient relationship,
  • a deviation from the standard of care,
  • causation, and
  • specific damages.

A doctor-patient relationship existed. If a doctor began seeing and treating you, it is easy to prove a physician-patient relationship existed. You can’t sue the doctor you overheard giving medical advice at a party. Questions of whether the relationship existed most frequently arise where a consulting physician did not treat you directly.

A deviation from the standard of care. A patient’s disappointment with treatments or unsatisfactory results does not automatically mean the doctor is liable for malpractice. The doctor’s negligence must have been connected to your treatment or diagnosis. You must prove that the doctor caused you harm in a way that a competent doctor, under the circumstances, would not have. The doctor’s care is not required to be the best possible, but simply reasonably skillful and careful under the circumstances. To determine this, Florida requires that a patient present a medical expert to discuss the appropriate standard of medical care and prove how the defendant deviated from that standard.

The doctor’s negligence caused the injury. Since many malpractice cases involve eggshell plaintiffs, patients who were already sick or injured, the patient must prove that it is “more likely than not” that the doctor’s incompetence directly caused the injury. For example, if a patient dies after treatment from lung cancer, and the doctor did do something negligent, it could be difficult to prove that the doctor’s negligence caused the death rather than the cancer. In such cases, a medical expert can testify that the doctor’s negligence caused the injury or death.

The injury led to specific damages. Most importantly, even if all of the aforementioned elements are met, a patient cannot sue for malpractice unless the patient suffered actual harm. Even if the doctor clearly performed below the expected standard of care in his or her field, a medical malpractice claim will fail without a showing of damages. Some examples of harm or damages may be:

  • death
  • physical pain
  • physical limitations
  • mental anguish
  • additional medical care and bills
  • lost work and lost earning capacity.

Common Examples of Medical Malpractice Claims

In no particular order, the following are types of the most common medical malpractice claims:

  • misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis;
  • failure to timely treat;
  • prescription drug errors;
  • surgical or procedural errors;
  • improper administration of anesthesia;
  • childbirth injuries, or
  • other preventable injuries that occur while admitted in a Florida hospital.

If you or a loved one was seriously harmed by a doctor’s negligence in Florida, Miller Trial Law can assist you. Please call us today at (305) 697-8312 for a free, no-risk consultation. We look forward to serving you!