Medical malpractice is a type of professional negligence, and it can take many different forms. For example, it may be based on a negligent action that the doctor took, or conversely, on something the doctor failed to do.
However, in order to successfully hold a doctor liable for medical malpractice, you must be able to prove that specific elements were present. Below we’re going to outline the five elements that claimants must be able to prove in order to win a malpractice suit in our state.
A Doctor-Patient Relationship Existed
In any Florida medical malpractice suit, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the doctor or other health care practitioner owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. This means that you hired the practitioner, and the practitioner agreed to be hired.
Questions about this type of relationship arise most frequently when a consulting physician provided advice on the patient’s case, but did not treat the patient directly.
The Doctor was Negligent
The second required element is a breach of duty owed to the patient. This can be in the form of an improper action or a failure to act on the part of the doctor or other health care practitioner.
Importantly, the doctor is not necessarily liable for malpractice just because you are dissatisfied with your treatment. You must be able to establish that the doctor was negligent in connection to your diagnosis or treatment.
Medical negligence is generally defined as causing the patient harm in a way that a competent doctor under the same circumstances would not have.
The Breach of Duty Caused an Injury
In order to hold a doctor or other health care practitioner liable for medical malpractice, you must be able to prove that his or her breach of duty caused an injury. This injury may be physical or emotional (for example psychological trauma), but you must establish that it was caused by a breach of duty.
Many medical malpractice claims involve a patient who was sick or injured before beginning treatment. This means that there is often a question of whether what the doctor did – even if it was negligent – actually caused the harm.
The Doctor Deviated from the Accepted Standard of Care
The medical field sets guidelines for how specific injuries or health conditions should be treated. This is known as the standard of care.
In order to hold a doctor liable for malpractice, you must be able to prove that the doctor made an error, and in so doing, deviated from the accepted standard of care, acting in a manner contrary to the generally accepted standard for the profession.
In other words, if the doctor either did or failed to do something that a similar practitioner would have done differently, this may constitute medical malpractice.
To recover damages for medical malpractice, you must be able to prove that specific damages actually occurred as a result of the injury, and that these damages can be remedied by financial compensation.
In other words, even if it is clear that the doctor acted negligently and deviated from the standard of care, you must also establish that you suffered damages as a result of these negligent actions.
Common damages in medical malpractice suits include physical pain, mental anguish, additional medical bills, lost work and earning capacity, and wrongful death.
Holding doctors liable for medical malpractice is essential to protect patients from negligence on the part of health care providers. However, proving medical malpractice is often complex, and usually requires the help of a personal injury attorney and expert witnesses, who can testify that the doctor acted negligently. Give yourself the best chance at success – work with a knowledgeable professional.
About the Author:
Jeffrey Braxton is a trial lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who has devoted his career to the practice of personal injury law. As lead trial attorney for the South Florida Injury Law Firm, Jeff has litigated thousands of cases and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an exclusive group of attorneys who have resolved cases in excess of one million dollars.
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