If you're still recuperating from an injury or illness caused by medical negligence, you may be starting to mull over your various options -- including the filing of a medical malpractice complaint in your county trial court. In many cases, suing for malpractice is your best and most efficient option to encourage a quick settlement or entitle you to the award of a financial judgment against the doctor or hospital responsible for your injuries. However, this area of the law can be complex, and you may need some legal assistance to walk you through your claim and help you make the best possible decision. Read on to learn more about how Florida medical malpractice cases are handled, as well as how a constitutional challenge to the Florida Supreme Court may affect your potential medical malpractice case.
How are medical malpractice claims handled in Florida?
Each state sets forth its own laws governing medical malpractice -- from limiting liability for certain groups (like doctors acting on an emergency basis or performing public service work at a free medical clinic) to setting forth statutes of limitations that place strict limits on the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. Florida is no different and has a variety of laws addressing all aspects of a medical malpractice claim.
One of the most important pieces of information for you to know is the Florida statute of limitations on the filing of a medical malpractice lawsuit. In general, you'll need to file your lawsuit within two years of when you discovered (or should have discovered) the injury, or four years from the date the malpractice actually occurred. While your injury may be such that the malpractice was immediately apparent and you have some time remaining before you begin to butt up against the two-year limit, in other cases it may be more difficult to instantly determine whether your injury or illness was due to a pre-existing condition, a natural event or act of God, or physician negligence. For example, if you had reconstructive knee surgery and notice even more significant pain after healing than before your surgery took place, it may take some additional investigation to determine whether this development was due to your own actions or to a mistake made by your orthopedic surgeon.
It's also important to remain aware of the other steps you'll need to take before your lawsuit can even be filed. Unlike some states, Florida requires you to obtain a physician's statement indicating you have a valid medical malpractice claim and send this statement to the physician or hospital responsible for your injury before you'll be allowed to file a lawsuit. The physician or his or her malpractice insurance company will then have 90 days to decide whether to negotiate a settlement or permit you to sue. Although this time period doesn't count against your two-year statute of limitations, it can illustrate why it's often a bad idea to wait until the last minute to file a lawsuit.
What changes could be coming to Florida malpractice law?
Since 2013, various lobbying groups have been battling over a provision of Florida malpractice law that permits ex parte -- or "one-part" -- conversations and document discovery between defense attorneys and third party physicians and health insurance providers. This law allows doctors who are being sued for malpractice to obtain your personal healthcare information from a variety of sources, often without your express consent or even without your attorney's knowledge. You may find yourself surprised when you get to court and discover that years- or decades-old medical records are being used to discredit your existing claim.
The Florida Supreme Court recently agreed to review the constitutionality of this law and could potentially strike it down if it's deemed to violate the due process rights of malpractice plaintiffs. If this happens, your case may be made much simpler, as you'll be made aware (prior to settlement negotiations or trial) of all the evidence that could potentially be used against you in court, allowing you to mount a defense with all the facts on the table.
As you can see, malpractice suits can be complicated to navigate, whether you live in Florida or somewhere else. For the best results, work with an experienced attorney from a firm like Davidson Law Center Inc. They will be familiar with the laws and regulations that might apply to your case.