Physician negligence causes thousands of patient injuries every year. When patients consult with a physician, there is a high expectation that the physician has the best interests of the patient in mind and will take necessary measures to keep the patient healthy and free from harm. When a physician does not uphold this duty of care, the potential for injury exists. When a patient does become injured due to physician negligence, compensation may be owed to the patient by the physician and in some cases, the hospital.
What Constitutes Physician Negligence?
Any breach of duty by a physician can be considered physician negligence. However, not every injury is a result of physician negligence. There are inherent risks present whenever a patient visits a hospital or medical facility, especially if medical procedures or surgeries are performed. Physicians must take reasonable precautions to prevent injuries and act quickly if complications arise. Failure to act in this professional manner may constitute physician negligence.
Types of Physician Negligence
There are many types of physician negligence, including but not limited to:
- Prescription errors
- Misdiagnoses of conditions
- Failure to diagnose conditions
- Failure to consult with a specialist
- Errors during medical procedures
- Ordering unnecessary procedures or surgeries
- Procedures done without patient consent
- Lack of informed consent
Proving Physician Negligence
Proving physician negligence may become complicated. Physicians will often use the defense that the care given was reasonable and that injuries are not the result of actions taken by the physician. Patients bear the burden of proving that injuries resulted from physician negligence and that a professional should have been able to prevent the injuries. An experienced malpractice attorney will be able to help patients acquire documentation and testimony to support a claim of physician negligence.
In addition to disproving a physician negligence claim, physicians may claim contributory negligence or utilize Good Samaritan laws or the respectable minority principle. Contributory negligence occurs when a patient contributes to an injury. Actions that may constitute contributory negligence include not following prescription directions or ignoring the recommendation to rest following surgery.
Good Samaritan laws protect physicians that assist patients in emergency situations from facing repercussions for errors made due to the rushed and time sensitive nature of the situation. The respectable minority principle protects physicians that are attempting to utilize clinical trials or other unproven treatments that may more effectively treat the condition. If a respectable minority of professionals agrees that the course of treatment is reasonable under the given circumstances, the minority principle may serve as a defense. For the minority principle to be a solid defense, physicians must have informed the patient of all possible risks before administering the treatment.
Statute of Limitations – Negligence in Florida
Statute of limitations laws may vary depending on the circumstances, but typically patients have two years to file a physician negligence claim in the state of Florida. If the injury occurs and is discovered immediately following the incident of physician negligence, the patient must file a claim within two years. If the injury does not occur or develop immediately, the statute of limitations may extend to allow two years after the injury is discovered for a claim to be filed. The maximum allowable time period in which a physician negligence claim can be filed is typically seven years, unless the victim was a child at the time of the incident.
Liability for Physician Negligence in Florida
Liability for physician negligence may vary from case to case. If a physician is employed by a hospital and is performing regularly described job duties when the act of negligence occurs, the hospital may be vicariously liable. The hospital may also be liable if it determined that the physician was not adequately trained or suited to the position. However, if the physician is a private contractor rather than an employee of the hospital or medical facility in which physician negligence occurs, the physician may be solely liable.
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