Doctors and other medical professionals fight to save lives every day. However, errors in the healthcare profession are common, as they are in every other line of work.
Sadly, mistakes committed in the healthcare arena, particularly by surgeons and their teams, often bring devastating consequences, including injury, financial woes, and death.
Fortunately, victims of surgical errors and other medical mistakes have a way to address the consequences of negligent medical care and recover the financial resources they need to get their lives back on track.
For over 20 years, the Fernandez Firm has fought to hold negligent health care professionals responsible for the errors and subsequent damage they have caused their patients.
We have recovered significant awards for compensation for clients who were merely seeking professional medical care and ended up in a worse condition than when they first sought treatment.
If you or someone you love has suffered an injury caused by a surgical error or another mistake, please contact our medical malpractice lawyer today for a free consultation. You may be entitled to the resources you need to help you recover and move into the future.
Medical Errors in Florida
Nationwide, the statistics for medical malpractice are bleak. Some figures have put the number of annual fatalities attributable to medical error in the hundreds of thousands, making it the third leading cause of death in America behind cancer and heart disease.
Many in the industry dispute these high figures and insist the death toll is lower, with some putting the figure in the low tens of thousands. Whatever the actual numbers are, anyone would agree that even one death or injury due to medical negligence is one too many.
In Florida, the number of overall medical errors has been alarmingly high for years now. In a Public Citizen’s Congress Watch report, hospitals throughout the Sunshine State reported nearly 20,000 incidents of medical error, which works out to over 50 mistakes every day.
Surprisingly, patients only filed 3,177 medical malpractice claims in response, meaning many of the patients who were injured or died received no compensation for their losses.
Surgical errors are a subset of medical malpractice that come about through the negligence of surgeons or their surgical team.
Given the complex and high-stakes nature of surgery, surgeons and surgical professionals must complete years of intense study and training.
Hundreds of surgeons in Tampa routinely perform surgeries, from simple outpatient procedures in offices to complex, high-stakes operations inside hospitals. Tampa General alone reportedly performs approximately 60,000 surgeries each year. Too many of them make mistakes.
Whenever a surgery occurs, the possibility of error exists. That said, some errors occur more than others.
Additionally, the riskier the procedure, the more likely an error will occur. However, trained surgical teams should be able to perform error-free work.
Mistakes happen when one of the following factors comes into play:
- Surgical incompetence, i.e., not being trained or qualified for the operation
- Failure to adequately prepare for surgery
- Distraction during the operation
- Fatigue, which occurs due to unrelenting surgery schedules or lack of personnel
- Communication mistakes
- Damaged or defective medical equipment
These factors cause numerous surgical errors in Tampa hospitals and beyond.
These errors occur when the surgeon erroneously operates on a part of the body not intended for operation. Amputations fall under this category, as do the removal of organs and other body parts.
Surgeons require steady hands and comprehensive knowledge of the body’s landscape. Even the slightest deviation from the scalpel’s course can lead to serious internal injuries or the permanent disfiguration of a patient. Fatigue and distraction can lead to unintended incisions.
Wrong Type of Surgery
Performing the wrong operation may be the result of poor scheduling and the poor handling of patient records. The consequences can be devastating and lead to lifelong health issues.
Foreign Objects Left In Body
Cases of this nature often make the news and are staples of urban legend. However, they are serious incidents and demonstrate serious negligence. If doctors don’t discover these errors on time, the patient may die.
Use of Wrong Surgical Instruments
There are many tools in the surgical team’s box of instruments, each with its specific use. Unfortunately, miscommunication and poor training cause teams to sometimes use the wrong instrument during an operation. Regardless of the reason, the results can lead to significant damages.
Damages are the losses that victims incur after being injured. If you have experienced a surgical error incident, you are likely facing a significant drain on your finances and a substantial quality of life reduction.
The chaos in which you and your loved one’s life is not your responsibility. The damage done to your future is not yours alone to bear. Florida law allows you to seek to recover direct financial compensation for both your economic and non-economic damages.
Not all surgical errors rise to the level of negligence. To claim compensation for the damages that follow, your attorney must demonstrate the defendant’s negligence.
If you demonstrate negligence, you may receive compensation for:
#1. Medical Bills
Surgical errors almost invariably lead to more medical treatment to correct the error, which can be costly. Your attorney will fight to add these expenses into your calculation for damages.
In many cases, the error causes significant or permanent injuries that require lifetime adjustments and care, such as when doctors amputate the wrong limb, forcing a patient into a future of rehabilitation, specialized equipment, and medical care.
#2. Lost Income
Surgical procedures usually involve time off work. Patients are aware they will miss out on income and plan accordingly. However, they don’t plan for time off work due to surgical errors.
Depending on the particular instance of surgical malpractice, a patient could end up completely debilitated and unable to return to work for an extended period or even forever.
#3. Pain and Suffering
Medical malpractice compensation covers the pain and suffering you experience from your injuries. Although subjective, there are hints of objectivity in the pain and suffering individuals feel.
As an extreme example, a scratch is objectively less painful than an amputation. In other words, the more serious the injury, the more pain and suffering damages you can likely claim.
#4. Loss of Enjoyment of Life
It is hard to measure the loss of enjoyment of life, but it is undeniable that it exists. The intelligence specialist mentioned above has certainly lost much of the enjoyment of life she felt before experiencing a surgical error, and she deserved to receive compensation for this loss.
#5. Loss of Consortium
Loss of consortium is similar to the loss of enjoyment of life but is limited to the enjoyment spouses share. It includes more than just sexual relations and encompasses the comfort, companionship, and solace a couple provides for one another.
#6. Wrongful Death
Tragically, a surgical error may end in the death of an individual. When this happens, certain family members may seek compensation for the loss of their loved one through the filing of a wrongful death claim.
Family members who can file a wrongful death claim include the surviving spouse, the parents of a deceased minor, and the children of the victim under 25.
#7. Punitive Damages
Florida law allows victims of medical malpractice to sue for punitive damages when the facts warrant. The court reserves punitive damages for those defendants who are more than negligent in their actions.
According to the controlling statute, the court must have clear and convincing evidence that the defendant was grossly negligent or intentionally caused the harm. It is a difficult bar to pass in personal injury cases, especially medical malpractice.
#8. Caps on Damages Suspended in Florida
In the books, there is a cap for non-economic damages, which limits the amount of compensation injured patients could recover in medical malpractice cases.
However, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that these caps violated the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution.
Compensation is one of the most contentious negotiation points.
If it were up to the insurance company, you would get inadequately calculated figures that come nowhere near the amount of compensation you need to address the damages you must deal with through no fault of your own.
How a Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help
A medical malpractice attorney is an advocate for your best interests. As such, they will work diligently to ensure and preserve your right to compensation and fight hard to recover compensation that covers your losses.
If you are a plaintiff, hiring an attorney to take on your surgical error case means you get peace of mind from knowing a competent professional is handling your affairs.
Handle Paperwork and Documents
Claims and lawsuits typically require an inordinate amount of paperwork and precise attention to detail and filing requirements. For the experienced medical malpractice attorney, tedious rules of procedure are familiar territory.
When you contract their services for your surgical errors malpractice case, you will not have to worry about timelines and procedural requirements and can expect your case to comply.
Various pieces of evidence will be necessary to support your claim. Surgical errors occur within the walls of an institution or a private office, which makes gathering evidence a challenge.
In the face of potential civil and criminal liability, hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices take shelter behind their legal departments, which will fight to limit the production of negative evidence.
A seasoned medical malpractice lawyer knows how to get the evidence needed to prove negligence and to demonstrate the extent of their client’s damages. They will overcome stonewalling efforts from the defense’s attorneys and insurance companies and compel the production of the evidence they need for their client’s case.
There is no set compensation value that victims receive for their damages. Although an insurance company may send a quick offer of compensation, injury victims should know that this first offer is rarely, if ever, sufficient to cover the typical losses patients in these situations suffer.
Medical malpractice lawyers are skilled negotiators who know the true value of their clients’ cases. Insurance companies must change their negotiating tactics when an attorney gets involved. Their efforts at convincing victims to take unreasonably low settlement offers typically cease when an experienced lawyer takes over.
In some cases, the hospital’s legal team may attempt to negotiate a settlement or some deal
in exchange for a small amount of money and confidentiality and non-disparagement agreements.
Injured patients and their families should never sign any agreements following a suspected medical error without consulting a medical malpractice lawyer. Doing so could nullify any valid compensation claims.
Go to Trial When Necessary
Negotiations are not always successful. Your attorney will inform you when they believe an offer won’t cover your losses and recommend going to trial when the insurance company unreasonably refuses to increase its payout.
Fortunately, most medical malpractice cases do not need to go to trial. Most of them settle during sometimes fierce negotiations. However, those that do go to trial invariably involve high-dollar compensation awards that may truly represent the losses a victim has suffered.
Handle the Appeal
In some cases, the defense may decide to appeal the verdict, in which case, your medical malpractice lawyer can continue representing you. If you receive an unfavorable verdict at trial, your attorney can also file an appeal on your behalf and take your case to the appellate level.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There a Statute of Limitations for Claims Based on Surgical Errors?
Yes. Florida has a statute of limitations that controls medical malpractice claims. Under normal circumstances, injury victims have two years from the surgery or the date of discovery of the error to file a lawsuit.
However, there is an overall time limit of four years from the date of the surgical error for suits, except in the case of minors eight years or younger named in lawsuits and cases of fraud.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Get a Proper Settlement?
Yes. All injury victims should know that insurance companies do not have their best interests in mind. The job of insurance adjusters is to offer you the smallest payout possible or to find a reason to deny your claim.
You need an experienced medical malpractice attorney to get you on a level playing field with the insurance company and the doctor or hospital, who have legal representation of their own.
Once you contract the services of an attorney, the insurance company and the defense will take your case more seriously because they know that a professional is looking after your interests.
Should I Speak to the Defendant’s Insurance Company?
No. Never speak to the defendant’s insurance company without your lawyer present. Its representatives will want to either deny your claim or get you to accept a small payout.
They may also try to use what you say to reduce the defendant’s liability. Sometimes, they accomplish this by getting you to admit a degree of fault in your injury. By doing so, they can reduce the amount of the settlement.
To truly protect your claim, you should allow a medical malpractice attorney to handle these communications.
How Much Can I Recover for My Medical Malpractice Injuries?
There is no way to determine your potential compensation without attending an initial consultation. The facts and circumstances of your case will dictate what you may be entitled to.
Another answer to this question would be that your case is worth as much as you accept from the insurance company. If an adjuster offers you a specific sum, and you take it, then that is how much you will recover.
However, if you don’t have an experienced attorney fighting for your interests, any amount you receive will likely be far below the payout you deserve.
How Much Does a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Cost?
Medical malpractice lawyers typically cost nothing upfront because they charge a contingency fee for their services based on the final settlement or verdict. In other words, your attorney does not get paid unless or until you do.
How Long Does It Take to Settle a Medical Malpractice Case?
Medical malpractice cases are complex and time-consuming. They require a significant amount of resources and rarely resolve in a short time.
Simply taking a case requires your attorney to hire experts to evaluate the facts to determine whether there is a reasonable likelihood that malpractice exists and that this malpractice caused your injury. This process adds significant time to the compensation process.
At your initial consultation with our office, we will discuss the merits of your case and explain these timing concerns as well as other pertinent matters that affect the length of malpractice cases. Generally speaking, however, it may take time to resolve your surgical error claim.
Time Is of the Essence With Medical Malpractice Cases
As explained, the statute of limitations on medical cases is two years. Numerous valid unpaid medical claims based on surgical error go uncompensated every year due to the lapsing of the statute of limitations.
Even if your case has passed the two-year mark, you should still consider speaking with an attorney. Exceptions to the statute of limitations for medical malpractice may apply to your case.
In addition to the statute of limitations, other considerations make it important to consult an attorney soon after your surgery injury.
One is the preservation of evidence. In most legal matters, evidence is stronger and more available soon after an injury than months or years later. This evidence includes witness testimony, video evidence, medical equipment, and biological samples.
Additionally, and most importantly, your rights to recovery of compensation need protection, which is the duty of a medical malpractice attorney.
Without this advocate, your legal rights to compensation remain unprotected during the claims process. Your injurers will do all they can to limit their liability and your compensation, which includes employing attorneys.
You deserve to be on par with those who have injured you. With the help of an experienced medical malpractice attorney, you can rest assured that you will meet the defense and their insurance companies head-on with a strong claim for the compensation your case truly deserves.