Medicine is not perfect, and mistakes often happen. However, just because a mistake or an adverse reaction to a drug occurs to a patient, that does not automatically mean that one has a medical malpractice case. For example, if your doctor prescribes you a drug to lower your blood pressure and one day you feel faint and fall down. This does not mean that the doctor is at fault. Most drugs to treat high blood pressure can cause dizziness and your doctor, or pharmacist will provide you with instructions about the drug and its side effects. However, if you went for elective surgery to repair your inguinal hernia and the surgeon left a piece of gauze or a small forceps inside the body, then they have been negligent.
In Florida, four key elements need to be present in order to prove that there has been medical malpractice:
- When did the incident occur? In most medical malpractice cases there is a statute of limitation for filing a case. In Florida, the time period is two years from the time that the patient becomes aware of the injury. If you file a day later after this time period, you have no case. While two years may sound like a long time, the lawyer has to gather all the files and then send them to a medical expert for review. This process can easily take 6-12 months. That is why it is important to take this timeframe seriously. If you don’t file within this time, you have no case.
- Duty and causation: All medical malpractice cases are governed by negligence. This is the most basic principle of the case, and you and your medical malpractice attorney will have to prove that the healthcare worker had a duty of care. For example, if you are admitted to the hospital with a stroke and have difficulty with walking, the nurses have to make sure that you do not fall out of bed or fall while walking to the bathroom. The standard of care for most stroke patients would be to ensure that the bed railings are elevated so that the patient can’t get out of the bed and have a bell so that the patient can call a nurse for help they need assistance. If the nurses and the hospital fail to provide this basic standard of care and because of this, the patient falls, these are grounds for a strong medical malpractice case.
- Breach of Duty: Another important element of a strong medical malpractice lawsuit is whether there was any breach of duty, i.e., did the healthcare provider fail to abide by the standard of care? For example, if a patient is suspected of having a stroke and presents to the emergency room, the current guidelines recommend that the emergency room doctor quickly obtain a CT scan of the head. If there is no bleeding in the brain, the standard of treatment is to administer a drug which dissolves blood clots. However, if the physician does not order a CT scan or fails to administer the blood thinning medications within a reasonable amount of time, it would be considered a breach of duty. If you can establish this, you will have a strong medical malpractice lawsuit.
- Damages: In order to have a strong medical malpractice case, there must be some type of injury or damages. For example, if you went to the pharmacist and instead of giving you 2 mg of the prescribed dose of morphine, he gives you 20 mg of morphine. However, you only sleepy for the next 24 hours and nothing else happens. This does not qualify for medical malpractice case because even though this was a serious error, there was no damage and you cannot show any evidence otherwise. But if you were to sustain a cardiac or respiratory arrest and suffer brain damage, you would have a strong case. In other words, you have to be able to prove that the damages you claimed you incurred actually did happen.
Medical Malpractice Attorney at Burnetti, P.A.
If you feel that you have suffered harm at the hands of a healthcare worker, the best way to know if you have a medical malpractice case is to see a medical malpractice attorney. Call our medical malpractice attorney at Burnetti, P.A. and they will help determine if you have a medical malpractice case.