With the potential for large payouts, medical malpractice claims put a lot on the line – both for patients and families in need of compensation, and defendants and malpractice insurers that want to protect their reputations and bottom line.
Given the complexity and stakes involved in medical malpractice cases, insurance companies that defend doctors and health care providers work zealously to defend against claims. They may call attention to inherent risks in seeking medical treatment, or to a lack of reliable medical evidence when plaintiffs attempt to establish causation.
In some cases, they may attempt to shield defendants from financial responsibility for patients’ damages by disputing liability when patients are injured by independently contracted doctors, rather than hospital-employed physicians.
That issue in particular is at the center of a case set to be heard by Florida’s highest court.
ER Malpractice & Liability When Doctors are Independent Contractors
In late July, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal stemming from a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade County in 2013. The case concerns a 28-year-old Florida woman who died in a hospital emergency room after losing consciousness after a cosmetic procedure.
As the case worked its way through the lower courts, it introduced questions about liability for patient injuries in emergency situations where physicians are independent contractors, rather than employees.
- In the original trial, the Circuit Court dismissed the suit against the Hospital;
- In March, the 3rd District Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling, and held that the hospital could not be held liable for injuries caused by independent contractor physicians;
- In July, the Florida Supreme Court announced it would accept the case.
As noted by the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the central predicament comes down to whether a hospital which delegates duties of providing emergency care to an independent contractor “absolve(s) itself of any liability if medical services are performed negligently by the contractor,” or if hospitals should still be held liable for patient injuries.
In this particular case, the 3rd District Court of appeals ruled that hospitals should not – a decision which conflicts with earlier rulings from the neighboring 4th District Court of Appeals. The discrepancies and uncertainties make this a profoundly important case worthy of evaluation and clarification by the state’s highest court.
Given the thousands of Florida residents who enter hospital emergency rooms on a daily basis – either for themselves or for loved ones – the question is a critical one, and the Florida Supreme Court’s decision could very well be a precedent that impacts numerous victims in need of justice and compensation following ER malpractice and preventable injuries.
Medical malpractice is a specific practice area within civil personal injury law, and it concerns medical professionals who fail to meet their “duty of care” when treating patients. Though that’s a simple definition, proving medical negligence and malpractice is a complex endeavor.
While every case is unique – and medical malpractice claims among the most highly fact-specific – medical professionals have legal obligations when treating their patients. Whether it’s diagnosing a potential disease, administering medications, facilitating childbirth, or performing surgery, doctors, nurses, and other health care providers are expected to treat patients in accordance to accepted standards of their profession.
In general, they’re expected to act like any reasonably skilled medical professional would act under the same or similar circumstances.
Of course, proving negligence and causation is only half the battle. Fighting back against corporate defendants and insurance companies is another challenge. Fortunately for victims and families in Orlando and the surrounding areas of Central Florida, Attorney Todd Miner has years of experience guiding clients through personal injury and wrongful death claims, as well as years of insight gained during his time as a former insurance defense lawyer.
Have questions about a potential case? Call (407) 269-5877 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.