Doctors make mistakes and errors. Some doctors are guilty of intentional wrongdoing, negligence, or malpractice. However, what is the difference, and how can you know whether you have a medical negligence case or a medical malpractice case?
Negligence is the failure to use the same level of care that a prudent, reasonable person would have used in the same or similar circumstances. The person being accused of negligence did not need to intend to hurt or harm someone. They merely failed to use a level of care that is required in a given situation.
Therefore, medical negligence covers errors and mistakes made by medical providers and health care facilities.
For example, say a surgeon accidentally leaves an instrument inside of a patient during surgery. A doctor would not intentionally leave sponges inside a patient. However, the doctor failed to use a level of care to ensure that the sponges were accounted for before closing the surgical site.
Likewise, a nurse does not intend to harm a patient when inserting an IV incorrectly. However, the nurse may not have acted reasonably when choosing the size or type of the IV given the circumstances.
What about Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice involves intent. The doctor or medical provider intentionally acted in a way that could injure a patient. The doctor knew that the conduct could result in the patient suffering harm, but the doctor consciously proceeded with the conduct.
For example, a doctor knows that performing surgery under the influence of drugs is dangerous for the patient. Knowingly performing surgery under the influence of drugs would be medical malpractice.
Likewise, a doctor who intentionally disregards test results when diagnosing a patient and developing a treatment plan might be guilty of malpractice.
How Do You Prove a Doctor Caused Your Injuries?
The difference between medical negligence and medical malpractice can be difficult to identify. However, doctors can be financially liable when their negligence or intentional acts cause a patient harm. For a patient to recover compensation for damages, the patient must prove each of the following legal elements of a malpractice or negligence claim:
Duty of Care
You must show that the doctor owed you a duty of care. The duty of care is established when the doctor-patient relationship begins. Typically, a signed authorization to provide medical treatment is sufficient to prove a doctor-patient relationship.
Breach of Duty of Care
There must be evidence showing that the doctor breached the duty of care. In medical malpractice cases, medical experts are retained to analyze the case.
The experts determine what a doctor of similar experience and education would have done in the same or similar situation. Then, the medical experts determine how the doctor’s conduct deviated from the accepted medical standards.
Injuries or Harm
You must have sustained physical injuries or harm because of the breach of the duty of care.
There must be a link between the doctor’s breach of the duty of care and your injuries. The doctor’s conduct must be a direct and proximate cause of your injury.
For example, say a doctor failed to monitor an infant during labor and delivery when the mother and infant had a high risk of complications. The doctor’s failure to act resulted in harm to the baby by causing a permanent birth injury.
You must sustain damages because of the negligence or wrongdoing. Damages in a medical malpractice case can include:
- Medical bills and expenses incurred because of the harm or injury caused by the doctor
- Loss of income because you were out of work
- Emotional distress, mental anguish, and physical pain and suffering
- Permanent impairments, disabilities, scarring, and disfigurement
- Decrease in future earning potential
- Ongoing medical and personal care
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Decrease in your quality of life
The value of your damages is determined based on the facts of the case. In a lawsuit, the jury decides how much to award for medical malpractice damages.
How Do I Know if I Have a Medical Malpractice Case in Florida?
If you did not suffer harm or damages because of a doctor’s negligence or wrongdoing, you might not be entitled to compensation for damages. A doctor cannot be held financially liable for errors and malpractice unless the patient suffers harm and incurs damages.
Examples of medical malpractice include, but are not limited to:
- Emergency room errors
- Surgical malpractice
- Anesthesia errors
- Delayed diagnosis, misdiagnosis, and failure to diagnose
- Birth injuries
- Medication errors
If you suspect that your doctor or another health care provider committed malpractice or negligently caused your injury, talk to a medical malpractice attorney in Miami. A lawyer will advise you of your legal rights and provide a skilled assessment of your case.
However, do not wait too long to talk with a lawyer. The Florida Statute of Limitations places a two-year deadline for most medical malpractice lawsuits. Most lawsuits must be filed within two years of when you should have discovered the malpractice, but no later than four years of the date of the malpractice.