Medical Malpractice

The doctor-patient relationship is one of trust. You put your life and health in your doctor’s hands, and you expect that the treatment you receive will reflect the knowledge and professionalism that comes with years of study, training, and experience. Of course doctors aren’t magicians, and they can’t cure everything. People get sick in Florida, and they sometimes die or become permanently disabled. Sometimes there is nothing that anyone—regardless of the level of training—can do to prevent it.

But unfortunately, there are times when a Florida healthcare professional simply fails to live up to the standards that every patient has a right to expect. Sometimes the results are tragic. Medical errors can be disastrous, resulting in fatalities and negative consequences to a patient’s health. Preventable medical errors are the No. 3 killer in the U.S. – after heart disease and cancer. They kill approximately 400,000 people annually. That averages out to more than 1,000 people--the equivalent of two 747 jets crashing—every day!

Medical Negligence in Florida

When a doctor or other healthcare professional is negligent in treating the patient and does not perform up to the standard expected of a professional in the same practice area Florida (“standard of care”), and a patient is harmed, medical malpractice has been committed. The error may be either one of commission (doing something that harmed the patient) or of omission (failing to do something that should have been done, resulting in worsening of the illness and harm to the patient.) In these cases, you may be able to recover money in compensation for your losses in a Florida medical malpractice legal action, with the help of a skilled trial attorney.

Common Types of Medical Errors

  1. Misdiagnosis, Failure to Diagnose, or Delayed Diagnosis:

    When you visit your doctor and describe the symptoms you’re experiencing, it is the doctor’s job to perform various diagnostic tests to determine what is going on. Knowing what tests and diagnostic procedures are called for with a given set of symptoms is a part of a doctor’s professional training. If your doctor failed in this regard, did not order the appropriate tests and procedures, and either did not diagnose a serious illness at all, diagnosed an illness as something else entirely, or failed to diagnose the illness in a timely manner, resulting in its worsening to the point of becoming difficult or impossible to treat successfully, you may have a cause of action for medical malpractice. Examples of diagnostic errors include:

    • Diagnosing a heart attack as heartburn
    • Diagnosing meningitis as flu or migraine
    • Diagnosing stroke as vertigo
    • Diagnosing appendicitis as gastritis
    • Failing to detect cancer until it is too advanced to cure
  2. Injuries to a Baby or Mother during, after, or Leading up to Childbirth:

    Although childbirth is a completely natural function, modern parents routinely seek out the assistance of a physician or certified nurse-midwife, and the great majority of births take place in hospitals, where modern equipment and skilled professionals can reduce the risks to the newborn and mother. However, equipment and training are only as good as those who apply them. Poor medical decisions, lack of care, negligence in examining the mother for potential problems ( for example gestational diabetes, vaginal herpes infection, RH incompatibility, cephalo-pelvic disproportion, or failure in monitoring the fetus), and poor decision-making regarding the duration of labor, interventions used, the decision whether or not to perform a Caesarian section), or failure to provide proper care for the newborn can have a deleterious effect on the child, resulting in brain damage, nerve damage, fractures and dislocations, jaundice, infections, and other health issues that can threaten the baby’s ability to survive or its quality of life.

  3. Surgical Errors:

    Hospitals should have procedures in place to prevent errors in surgery, which can be life-threatening or damaging to the patient’s future quality of life, for example operating on the wrong body part, leaving a surgical instrument or sponge inside the body, performing the wrong procedure, or failing to take appropriate measurements (as in a hip replacement where the patient ends up with one leg longer than the other!).

  4. Anesthesia Errors:

    Errors in anesthesia can be fatal or cause permanent brain damage or other injury. They can occur in various ways, for example by:

    • Failing to take a thorough medical history to determine allergies, sensitivities, and medical conditions that could affect the patient under anesthesia
    • Failing to instruct the patient on the importance of preparing for anesthesia by not eating or drinking or by discontinuing certain medications prior to the procedure
    • Giving an excessive amount of anesthesia
    • Failing to intubate or improperly intubating patients
    • Neglecting to monitor vital signs
    • Equipment malfunctions or misuse
  5. Prescription Medication Errors: On the average, a third of the adult American population is on five or more prescription medications at any given time. But with so many people taking so many prescription drugs, the possibility of errors causing fatalities and harm to a patient’s health is high. Most medication errors are preventable, and they are often the result of negligence on the part of a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or some other healthcare professional. Medication errors send 700,000 people to the emergency room and cause 100,000 people to be hospitalized in the U.S. each year, affecting an estimated total of million and a half Americans annually, including 7,000 deaths.Medication errors can occur with the prescribing, fulfillment, or administration of the drugs. The cause can be as simple as a doctor’s illegible handwriting—or it can result from the wrong medication being prescribed as the result of a misdiagnosis or the doctor may have neglected to inquire about a patient’s history of adverse reactions to a particular drug. A pharmacist may misread a prescription and accidentally substitute another drug with a similar sounding name, or a hospitalized patient may be given medication meant for someone else.

Getting Legal Help for Medical Malpractice in the Tampa Bay Area

If you or a member of your family suffered harm because of an error by a doctor or other healthcare professional, you may be able to recover money as compensation for your damages. This is no easy task, however, due in part to Florida’s extremely complex and difficult medical malpractice statute. Florida law leans in favor of doctors, and contains many provisions that limit an injured person’s ability to hold a doctor or other medical professional responsible for harm done to a patient. Nevertheless, with the right medical malpractice attorney working in your behalf, it may be possible for you to receive a compensation award. Money is never adequate compensation for loss of a person’s life or health, but there are good reasons to pursue a medical malpractice claim against a negligent doctor:

  1. The money you win can help you and your family when you’ve suffered financial and quality of life damages as a result of the medical negligence that damaged your health or took the life of a loved one.
  2. Making a negligent professional pay for errors is a good way to deter a physician from being careless, unconcerned for the well-being of patients, and generally incompetent. It may save another patient from going through the pain that you and your family are suffering;
  3. Holding an incompetent or negligent healthcare professional responsible for failure to perform at a reasonable level of professional competence can provide closure and a sense that there is at least some form of justice.
    For the aggressive and compassionate legal assistance you need to hold a negligent healthcare professional accountable for the damages you and your family have suffered, call the law offices of attorney Stephen Maltezos today to schedule a free consultation to learn if you have a case for medical malpractice. Steve has offices in St. Petersburg and Tampa and serves Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties and all of West Central Florida.

It’s all about justice, so don’t risk losing your right to compensation by delaying; the time in which you are allowed to file a malpractice claim is limited by Florida law, so make that call to Maltezos Law today.