When people have been injured because of what they believe to be the negligence of a medical provider (a hospital, a nurse, any medical provider) we begin to enter a very complicated area of the law. There are a lot of attorneys that, because of the nature of this practice, have limited their practice only to that. Kind of like the medical field had become so complicated you have a specialist in oncology, you have a specialist in brain tumors. They don’t operate on knees, they only handle their specialty. There are some attorneys that have limited their practice to that.
We get many, many, many calls about malpractice.
My heart goes out to them because lots of people really do have what appears to be a problem in their life because of what appears to be negligence, but proving that is just a very complicated thing. Automobile accident cases have, for example, a 4-year statute of limitations. Medical malpractice cases only have a 2-year statute of limitations. Within 2 years, you certainly (if you do your homework) should know whether or not you’ve got a basis for a lawsuit.
The most important thing to remember (and this doesn’t mean to denigrate in any way people who have had some injury), the injury almost has to be catastrophic in order to make it economically worth pursuing in court. Preparing for malpractice cases requires so much discovery and research and depositions that the expense of getting ready for that trial is some of the most expensive type of cases that we deal with. If we feel that there is a valid claim, we would up-front the expenses to that, which is a benefit to our clients but…
The standard that you need to remember is… The doctor who you believe may have committed malpractice… You have to have another doctor, another medical provider in the same field of practice who has examined the records, perhaps examined you, all the detail of it, and they have to sign an affidavit that in their opinion, the at-fault medical provider breached the standard of care of a similar provider in this community. The standard may be in fact a little different in Florida than it is in California or Canada or in anywhere else.
But as a condition precedent, in other words, you can’t file your lawsuit, unless you have in your hands, this affidavit that says that this other medical provider who practices in the same general area, has concluded after looking at the facts that the offending doctor actually breached the standard of care.
With that, if you have an attorney who has looked at the facts, and your own preexisting medical history, and feels like there’s enough to present a case to the jury, there are lots of big verdicts about that. I mean the horrific cases require life-care plans and depending on how much money they make if they aren’t able to return to work. That’s where you get lots of these big numbers…
And there has to be actually an injury, let me give you an example!
Years ago I had a man come who had been to a local hospital. Went in, had an injury, fell off a ladder. Went to the emergency room. X-rays were done. They sent him home. And within 24 hours, he gets a phone call saying, “Stay there! We’re coming to pick you up in an ambulance. We re-read your neck x-rays and you have a broken neck!”
Well, he was fortunate that he didn’t do something from the time he left the emergency room to the phone call to actually cause a real serious injury. They came, picked him up, brought him back. There had been less than 24, 36 hours in that situation. And there really wasn’t enough, in that length of time, to… because they fixed it! If he had actually fallen again and become a quadriplegic or something because of that then, there’s a whole different ballgame. But I always thought that was kind of an intriguing example where they did miss something but there really wasn’t enough “injury” (so to speak) to make it legally worth pursuing on his behalf. And the judges probably would not have let that case pursue either.
– Ranier Munns is an experienced personal injury attorney and managing shareholder of Bogin, Munns & Munns, a full service law firm with offices in Orlando, Clermont, Kissimmee, Orange City, Daytona Beach, Ocala, Melbourne, Gainesville, and Leesburg. Mr. Munns works out of the Orlando office and welcomes questions and comments regarding the above. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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