In its simplest form, medical negligence is the failure of a healthcare provider to render care and treatment to a patient that another reasonable healthcare provider would have rendered under like or similar circumstances. If the failure causes you injury that you otherwise would not have suffered but for the failure, then you likely have a medical malpractice case.
It is important to understand that just because you suffer a bad outcome or injury while being treated by a healthcare provider does not necessarily mean that medical malpractice was committed. Unfortunately, patients do experience bad outcomes and injuries on a daily basis, even when their healthcare providers practice within accepted standards; sometimes the best care cannot prevent a bad outcome or injury. However, all too often, a bad outcome or injury occurs because the patient “slipped through the cracks” of a very busy hospital, or the healthcare provider failed to do what another reasonable healthcare provider would have done in that same situation. Here are two examples of literally countless medical malpractice scenarios that can and do occur:
- A radiologist fails to diagnose a fracture in an imaging study that reasonable radiologists should be able to identify. As a result of the failure, the fracture goes undiagnosed, worsens, and the delay in treatment causes some permanent injury which otherwise would not have occurred had the fracture been initially and appropriately identified and treated; or
- An obstetrician, or labor and delivery nurse in the absence of an obstetrician, fails to appreciate a combination of non-reassuring fetal heart tracings such as bradycardia, tachycardia, decreased variability, and prolonged and/or multiple late decelerations. As a result of the failure to appreciate these tracings, a caesarian section procedure, which would have been ordered by another reasonable obstetrician in this scenario, either never occurs or is delayed and the baby suffers permanent neurological injury due to a period of decreased oxygen to the brain during labor.
In many states, like Florida, medical malpractice has become a creature of statute, meaning that certain proof and procedural requirements have been enacted and must be satisfied before a lawsuit can even be filed. These statutory hurdles require a lawyer with specialized skill and knowledge in medical malpractice. Before choosing a medical malpractice attorney to review your potential case, be sure to question the attorney on his/her experience specifically in medical malpractice cases, including trial experience. Medical malpractice is a very complex area of the law, and you will want to be sure the attorney handling your case is seasoned in this area.
Cameron Stephenson is a lawyer with the Levin, Papantonio law firm in Pensacola, Florida, and handles medical malpractice and other wrongful death cases. He has devoted his legal practice to fighting for the rights of Florida’s injured patients