1. The statute of limitations
Generally, you must bring your lawsuit within two years of the date that you discovered or should have discovered that your injuries were caused by medical malpractice. Unless a doctor or institution conceals the malpractice, patients cannot sue a healthcare provider more than four years after the malpractice took place — even if the victim or family was unaware of the medical mistakes beforehand. If there was concealment, you have seven years from the date of the alleged act of malpractice to file your claim.
There is an exception if the victim of malpractice was a young child. And any case that involves a birth injury gives you a longer amount of time to file. Because the rules are so complicated, you should never assume that it is too late to file without talking to an attorney.
2. Patients often cannot testify to important events
By definition, if you were the victim of medical malpractice, you were sick or injured. Due to your pain and/or fear at the time, you may not be able remember what happened to you and to describe it accurately. Furthermore, pain medications may dull your ability to think and remember. If the mistake occurred during or after a surgical procedure, you may have been unconscious. Even if you think that you remember, if you took any drug that tends to interfere with memory, the defendant’s attorney may argue that your testimony should not be trusted.
3. Identifying all possible defendants
In many, maybe even most, medical malpractice cases, there is more than one defendant who may be responsible. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to analyze the actions of all the doctors, nurses and other employees of the medical facility, and the hospital itself. If your claim involves a drug or medical device, the manufacturer, distributor and other companies in the chain of sale may be responsible.
In some cases, there may be several defendants, any or all of whom might be partially responsible, and the question is how to apportion the damages. In others, the question may be whether you were injured by malpractice at all, or if your situation resulted from a known side effect or surgical complication.
4. Medical professionals stick up for each other
In Florida, you may not file a lawsuit for malpractice unless it is accompanied by an expert opinion stating that the defendant was negligent and that you were injured as a result. Even a second doctor who believes that what happened to you should not have occurred may still be reluctant to point a finger at a colleague.
5. Obtaining full reimbursement for your damages
Medical malpractice insurance policies are limited to a certain amount of damages. If your damages exceed this amount, you may face the difficult task of trying to collect the rest from the defendant’s personal funds. In some cases, even people who appear to be wealthy have few assets – or they have learned how to make them hard to find.
Furthermore, Florida law caps recovery of noneconomic damages for medical malpractice at $500,000 in most cases, and $1 million in cases of death or very severe and permanent injuries. Medical bills, both past and future, are not limited to any predetermined amount. But recovery for pain and suffering, and any other kind of damages for which you cannot produce a receipt, are limited.