Medical Malpractice

In 1990, Harvard University published a far reaching study of medical malpractice cases.1 That study reported that every year, in the United States, approximately 80,000 people die because of medical error. The study was confirmed by similar studies, and was critical to the passage and implementation of medical malpractice law nationwide.   

Florida Medical Malpractice Statute – and Its Time Deadline

Today, Chapter 766 of the Florida Statutes defines and deals with medical malpractice that occurs within the State of Florida.  Together with defining the types of mistakes that constitute medical malpractice under the law, the statutes also set relatively short time deadlines for victims to file suit for medical malpractice damages. 

In Florida, you may have as little as two years from the day the mistake happened to file suit.   While two years does appear to be a reasonable time, when a victim and his/her family faces the financial and medical realities of medical mistakes, their focus is often understandably not on legal time frames and there are unfortunate situations where the deadline is missed, and valid cases are barred by law. 

If you have questions concerning a possible medical malpractice claim, don’t wait.  Please feel free to call J.B. Harris for a free, initial legal consultation at (305) 374-6360 at your earliest convenience.   It’s important to know your filing deadline.

When is a Medical Mistake Legally “Medical Malpractice”?

Medical mistakes can be minor, and the law will not consider them to be medical malpractice.  However, when medical errors occur that are a deviation below the accepted standard of care in the community where the doctor is located, then there is a basis for a medical malpractice suit. 

The law recognizes a compensable injury as "medical malpractice" when complications result from improper care or treatment. Even failing to correctly and timely diagnose an illness or a condition is medical negligence.   Failure to diagnose is a type of medical malpractice, so is a failure to listen to a patient. 

There can also be surgical errors, which usually happen when the wrong organ, limb, or other area of the body is involved. Many surgical errors also occur with surgery on the wrong patient, and doing the wrong procedure on the correct body part.  Plastic surgery mistakes can be medical malpractice. 

Medical negligence can also involve unnecessary procedures. These surgeries can include unneeded Cesarean sections, tonsillectomies, appendectomies, mastectomies, and hysterectomies. 

If you or a loved one has suffered what you believe is a medical error, legal remedies may include monetary damages for medical care and treatment, lost wages, lost future earnings, and pain and suffering.  Medical malpractice claims can be based upon:

  • Surgical Errors
  • Failure to Diagnose Errors
  • Post-Operative Care Errors
  • Nursing Errors
  • Anesthesiologist Errors
  • Radiologist Errors
  • Birth Injuries
  • Blood Transfusion Errors

Severe Birth Injuries

Many are surprise to learn how often babies are injured during birth; usually, the injuries are minor and disappear within the newborn’s first few hours or days of life.  However, there are times when those birth injuries are catastrophic and severe, with a long-term, lifelong impact. 

How Do Severe Birth Injuries Happen?

During a vaginal delivery, the baby's head undergoes a great amount of stress and pressure.  The infant may be bruised on her face, head, and neck.  The head may swell.  Blood vessels in the baby's eyes may break.  With enough pressure in a prolonged labor, the baby's face may even be temporarily paralyzed.  Still, as frightening as these symptoms of a difficult birth can be, they will ordinarily resolve themselves within a short time after birth. 

When is a birth injury medical malpractice under Florida law?

Medical malpractice during birth occurs when the injuries are more permanent.  For example, a baby may suffer from Erb's Palsy or Cerebral Palsy after a difficult birth.  Erb’s Palsy can happen when the baby's shoulders have been a problem during delivery, and during the vaginal delivery, the baby suffers broken collarbone or clavicle.  Cerebral Palsy can occur when the baby's brain does not get enough oxygen during the birth, and as a result, she suffers from permanent brain damage.

If you or a loved one has a child who has suffered from a serious birth injury, then there may be legal remedies available to address such areas as medical expenses, pain and suffering, and long-term care needs.  A number of parties may be partially responsible: HMOs, nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and other medical professionals – the responsibility for a birth injury may lie with more than one health care provider. 

Prescription Errors

There are times when drugs are defective, and while the right dosage has been prescribed by the health care provider, the medication itself is dangerous.  Usually, these drugs are subject to voluntary or compulsory recall and are removed from the marketplace. 

In other instances, drugs can call serious personal injury or death, and the cause has nothing to do with the medication but instead with the human error involved in its prescription.   All drugs have side effects which should be monitored, but all drugs can also cause serious harm or death if improperly administered.  If you or a loved one suffers any of the following symptoms after ingesting a drug or medication, then you may be the victim of prescription error:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Heart Attack
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Paralysis
  • Stroke

Serious prescription errors can form the basis of a medical malpractice cause of action.  In these instances, the doctor, nurse, technician, and hospital or clinic may share responsibility for the catastrophic injuries or death that have resulted from the prescription mistake. 

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed due to the wrongful acts of a health care provider, then you may have a legal claim for legal damages as well as the right for justice against the wrongdoer and you are welcomed to contact the Miami personal injury lawyers at J.B. Harris, P.A. to schedule a free initial legal consultation at (305) 374-6360.

Media Coverage:

Fired nurse’s suit against University of Miami raises questions about precautions taken with pharmaceuticals
April 26, 2002


1Harvard Medical Practice Study, Patients, Doctors, and Lawyers: Medical Injury, Malpractice Litigation, and Patient Compensation in New York (Boston: Harvard University School of Public Health, 1990)

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