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Are Doctors Let Off To Easy In Medical Malpractice Cases?

Personal injury lawsuits often involve accidents in casual environments or even involve complete strangers, but medical malpractice cases are an exception in that they involve an extreme breach of trust. Indeed, even if the injury involved was accidental and not a case of extreme negligence, the sense that one has been badly wronged is deep seated and can be hard to overcome. This is one of the aims of malpractice lawsuits – to help individuals and families recover damages related to those injuries.

What can families and their legal teams do when medical malpractice laws no longer seem to fulfill their calling to justice? This is precisely the problem that many Florida families are facing today. Though the state’s Supreme Court recently struck down caps on pain and suffering damages, there are still a number of restrictions on damage claims that let doctors off easy, despite a clear case of malpractice.

Financial Needs And Legal Barriers

In addition to addressing non-economic damages, what we often term pain and suffering, a major function of medical malpractice lawsuits is to help victims and their families bridge the financial gap left in the wake of the injury. According to Ward & Barnes, a Pensacola-based law firm, medical malpractice claims help cover treatments and rehabilitation that health insurance may not. This includes long-term rehabilitative or nursing care, which may be considered residential, rather than medical, and is therefore excluded from health insurance. Damages may also cover modifications to make your home more accessible, or lost wages.

When families and victims are prohibited from bringing additional charges against doctors in medical malpractice cases, these financial needs go unaddressed. Unfortunately, medical practices have been so aggressive in attempting to prevent lawsuits, as to demand pretreatment agreements. Luckily, courts have consistently begun to declare these agreements unenforceable; they are only meant to prevent frivolous lawsuits, not insulate doctors from all legal action.

Niche Malpractice Complaints

While we typically talk about medical malpractice in the context of traditional healthcare settings, particularly regarding surgical procedures, these aren’t the only cases in which such lawsuits emerge. The dental field has increasingly been the subject of malpractice suits, hinging partly on increased understanding of the field and the lack of research underpinning much dental care.

Most dental malpractice claims are related to major interventions; about 28% are filed in connection to prosthodontic procedures. Prosthodontics, which includes tooth implants, can be critical to overall health, ensuring patients can receive sufficient nutrition, preventing collapse of the facial architecture, and more. Other dental fields often subject to lawsuits are restorative dentistry and endodontics, the field that focuses on the interior health of the tooth.

Dental malpractice has been the subject of increased concern, specifically in Florida, due to its intersection with other malpractice laws. For example, one Florida couple was prevented from pursuing non-economic damages after the death of their disabled son. Tommy Myers was improperly sedated for a procedure and stopped breathing, leading to his death two days later. Because Myers was a 39-year-old single and childless adult, his parents are not considered to have standing to make a pain and suffering claim under Florida statute 768.21. Only the Florida Department of Health can ultimately hold his care provider accountable.

Victims of medical malpractice and their families shouldn’t be dependent on regulators to get justice for their injuries. While lawyers can act as their clients’ best advocates, without appropriate statutory infrastructure, there are limits to what even the best legal team can do. Fighting for legal change – change that puts victims first – before you need to file a claim is the first step to a more empathetic and just system.