One of the most complicated and difficult fields of personal injury is medical malpractice. Fortunately, the vast majority of medical professionals have their patients’ best interests at heart and genuinely do their best to help those in need. However, in those rare instances in which malpractice does occur and leads to serious harm, it can be difficult for the injured patient to prove that their doctor acted negligently.
Whether you are looking for a new general practitioner or doing research prior to scheduling elective surgery, there are some things you should know that may help you decrease your risk of suffering from medical malpractice. Our Panama City medical malpractice attorney shares some steps you can take to protect yourself when receiving medical care in Florida.
Before you visit any doctor, surgeon, acupuncturist, or any kind of medical professional, do your research. These days, just about every working professional in any field has a website or online profile that includes reviews. Search for information about the practitioner online and read what others have had to say about them.
You can also head to this page on the Florida Department of Health website to do research on physicians practicing throughout the state. Using this tool, you can see if a particular physician has a history of any disciplinary actions against them or perhaps was sued and had to pay a fine or restitution.
Communication-related errors are one of the most prevalent causes of malpractice claims nationwide. Before you undergo a procedure, ask your doctor to explain in detail what is about to occur and make sure they verify your medical history as well as basic information such as your name—many medical errors involve a doctor performing the correct procedure on the wrong person or vice versa.
If you have a good relationship with your doctor and can talk with them openly and freely, you are less likely to suffer from medical malpractice. Remember: just because someone is a qualified medical professional does not mean they are right for you. If you visit one who makes you feel uncomfortable, find a new doctor. The person treating you should be just as helpful and respectful as they are competent and experienced.
Make sure your doctor documents everything you talk about as well as any medication or treatments they prescribe. If you complain about an ache or pain and your doctor dismisses it or decides it doesn’t need to be investigated, have them write that down, too. Many malpractice cases involve delayed diagnoses or misdiagnoses, which can be hard to prove in court without notations in your medical records acting as evidence.
In Florida, as well as in other states, people who practice medicine must uphold what is known as a legal “duty of care” to every patient they care for. This means that they must treat every patient as best they can, within their knowledge and abilities.
By Florida law, patients also have a right to privacy. If a physician shares confidential medical information without your consent, you may be able to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.
Florida law also grants patients the right to know their health care provider’s name, qualifications, and function and “may request such information from his or her responsible provider or the health care facility in which he or she is receiving medical services” at any time.
Never hesitate to ask about your rights and invoke them if you feel you are feeling mistreated. You can learn more about your rights as a patient by reading Florida Statute 381.026.
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider makes a mistake that injures their patient. However, not all medical errors constitute medical malpractice.
As mentioned above, all medical professionals must uphold a duty of care to their patients. However, this law not only protects people receiving care but medical practitioners as well.
For example, if a doctor attempts to cure a patient’s cancer to the best of their ability, using all of the cutting edge medical technology and medication available, but the patient still dies of cancer, the surviving family members probably won’t be able to sue. This is because the doctor did not kill the patient—the cancer did.
The criteria for medical malpractice are somewhat more lenient in an emergency. If emergency room doctors are trying to save your life and decide they must amputate your arm so you don’t die, you most likely won’t be able to file a claim for malpractice (unless you can prove without a doubt that the doctors did not have to cut your arm off but mistakenly did anyway).
Just because you are unhappy with your treatment does not mean you can file a malpractice claim.
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional is negligent. The word “negligent” applies to healthcare professionals who violate their standard of care when treating a patient.
Examples of medical malpractice may include:
To best understand whether you have a legitimate medical malpractice claim on your hands, it is best to consult directly with a medical malpractice attorney in your area. Any good medical malpractice lawyer should offer free consultations—take advantage of one. This way you can figure out whether you have a claim and, if so, what steps you need to take to move forward.
If you or a loved one has suffered harm because a medical practitioner negligently caused a permanent or catastrophic injury such as brain damage, loss of limb, paralysis, or death, we can help. Contact our Panama City medical malpractice attorney Wes Pittman at (850) 764-0383 or online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.