If you have been injured by the negligence of doctors, hospitals, or other medical professionals, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. State law creates a right to civil relief for harmful deviations from standard medical care, but the process of seeking that relief can be daunting. Often, you’ll go up against extensive networks of medical professionals and their legal teams who will defend their actions at your expense.
Before you can bring a medical malpractice lawsuit to court, there are various steps and requirements to meet. If you are tackling this complicated legal battle, you need a local lawyer on your side. Contact our Boca Raton serious injury law firm to see how we can help you.
Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice in Florida
The first step in a claim for medical malpractice is simply determining if it is being brought in a timely manner. The statute of limitations serves as the legally required timeline to file a complaint. You have to initiate a lawsuit within a set period, but you cannot present a case after a maximum length of time. This system is designed to protect you and healthcare professionals. It gives victims enough time to discover the malpractice. But it also relieves healthcare professionals of liability for decades-old incidents where the injury is not easily traceable or evidence is no longer discoverable after a significant lapse of time.
While the system is well-intentioned, it can be complicated. The effects of negligent medical care may not be immediately evident. It may take months or even years before a patient can notice the side effects. So, how long do you have to sue for medical malpractice in Florida?
Under the Florida statute of limitations, you have two years to file a lawsuit from the discovery of the incident. This means the clock starts ticking from the moment you obtain the initial information about the malpractice. For example, if an obvious error occurs at the time of care, like amputating the wrong hand, the discovery starts when you wake up and realize a hand is missing. You would then have two years from the surgery date to file a medical malpractice claim.
However, some situations are not immediately discoverable. For example, your doctor could forget to remove a medical instrument before ending the surgery. You would unknowingly walk around with a screw for some time, and the statute of limitations would not be running. The second you discover the screw, the clock starts. From that point, you’d have two years to file a claim.
The catch is that you have two years to file, but you also cannot take action later than four years from the initial accident. Let’s say that screw hangs around for four years until the patient discovers it. The statute has lapsed and a lawsuit is not possible because it has been longer than four years since the surgery.
Exceptions to Florida’s Statute of Limitations on Medical Malpractice
In certain cases, you may have a bit longer to file a suit. The statute of limitations extends in certain circumstances, which include:
Children may not know how to communicate symptoms of malpractice, or the effects may not appear for a long time after the mistake occurs. For example, a brain injury stemming from malpractice during delivery may not appear until the child begins to age. In this exception, a family will have two years from the date of the malpractice discovery for an incident occurring when the child was younger than eight years old.
Unfortunately, some doctors will do everything in their power to conceal their mistakes (or commit medical malpractice on purpose). If the malpractice was intentionally concealed or based on fraudulent information from the medical professional, the statute of limitations extends. In this exception, you have seven years from the date of occurrence, giving you three extra years to file suit.
Pre-Suit Requirements for Medical Injury Lawsuits in Florida
Now that we have answered “how long do you have to sue for medical malpractice in Florida,” we can turn to other requirements. First up, you must meet certain pre-suit requirements before you can file a lawsuit. These set malpractice suits apart from other types of injury suits. First, you must obtain an affidavit from a doctor confirming the injury or illness is connected to medical malpractice.
With the affidavit in hand, the claimant must notify the person or group that they intend to sue and initiate litigation. The potential defendants should be given a copy of the affidavit to affirm the claim.
Next, defendants have 90 days to respond to the claim once they receive notice. In that time, they can collect evidence, review medical records, and gather other information in an attempt to defeat the claim. In some cases, the defendants may be willing to offer a settlement. However, most medical facilities and doctors will fight malpractice claims in court.
When 90 days have passed, the plaintiff can now file a medical malpractice lawsuit. This must be done within the statute of limitation in mind, as discussed above.
How is Medical Malpractice Defined in Florida?
If you are unsure if you have a claim to pursue, just ask. Our team of experts knows what to look for in medical malpractice cases. Medical malpractice requires you to demonstrate the following:
- If the perpetrator is a health care provider, which is defined in the statute
- Whether the mistake arose from the medical care of the health services provider
- Alternatively, whether the cause of action arose from a failure to render services
In the aftermath of a medical injury, you may feel helpless and powerless. Challenging established healthcare providers to ensure accountability and compensate for injuries is no easy task. That’s why it’s essential to have our Florida medical injury attorneys on your side.
With the right counsel, you stand a better chance of experiencing a successful outcome in court. We will provide professional guidance and advice every step of the way, so contact us today!