Discovering Potential Hospital Liability for Medical Malpractice
Watching a loved one suffer from disease or injury that requires hospitalization is an agonizing experience that often never feels adequately addressed. This trauma is compounded many hundreds of times if you realize your loved one’s condition was caused in part by negligent or poor service at the hands of doctors or hospital staff, and leads many families to consider filing a lawsuit for medical malpractice. A recent report on ProPublica provides an in-depth discussion about the lack of response or responsibility exhibited by hospitals and doctors when medical mistakes occur. The story of a Florida woman who died as a result of misdiagnoses, insufficient monitoring of medication side effects, and questionable surgical practices forms the backdrop of a discussion about the efforts taken by the medical profession and regulatory agencies to provide as little information to families about medical mistakes as possible. Florida law does contain provisions about the right of patients to access their records in the event of an adverse medical incident, which will be outlined below. In addition, an overview of the legal obligations a person claiming medical malpractice must fulfill prior to initiating a lawsuit will be discussed as well.
Access to Patient Records
The Florida Constitution and state statutes grants any patient of a health care facility or provider the right to see records related to adverse medical incidents, provided the identifying information of the individuals involved in the incidents is withheld from the public. The health care provider must give the patient an opportunity to copy or inspect the records following a formal or informal request. However, this access only applies to records a health care facility designates as the “final report” of an adverse incident and excludes earlier drafts, notes or documents protected by lawyer-client privilege. Further, any information contained in these reports cannot later be presented as evidence in any civil or administrative action against the health care provider. Essentially, this law gives health care providers a large amount of leeway to decide what constitutes a “final report,” and realistically limits the use of these records to exclusively informational.
When it comes to requests for records related to claims of medical malpractice, the hospital or doctor has 10 business days from the date of the request to provide copies to the claimant or defendant. The fact that the records are not complete or a medical bill is still unpaid are not grounds for refusing to provide the documents. Further, if the records are not received within the 10-day period, the requesting party is no longer required to get medical corroboration of their claims.
Investigation by Claimants
In any medical malpractice lawsuit, the person claiming injury must notify the health care provider of his/her intent to sue them before filing a complaint so the provider has an opportunity to investigate the person’s claim and decide whether to offer a settlement of the matter. However, before the claimant can even notify the medical provider of the forthcoming lawsuit, he/she must do his/her own investigation into the facts that show the medical provider is negligent in the performance of the claimant’s care and that this negligence caused injury. The way a claimant shows there was negligence and resulting injury is to obtain an opinion from a medical expert, usually another doctor working in the same field, who corroborates what the claimant believes. This opinion must be provided to the medical provider accused of negligence in the notice about the impending lawsuit, and can later be used at trial as evidence.
Talk to a Medical Malpractice Lawyer
Dealing with an injury due to medical mistake is one of the hardest things a person and his/her family can experience. Because of the complex nature of medical malpractice claims, it is important to get an lawyer involved as soon as possible so you do not lose any rights to recover for your injuries. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado represents clients in many different types of injuries due to medical malpractice. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.