[Video] What is Medical Malpractice? Medical Mistakes and Lawsuits

Robert W. Kelley, Florida-based medical malpractice trial lawyer focused on full compensation for victims (and their families) of medical errors, hospital mistakes and other negligent healthcare provider actions.

Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer Bob Kelley Decodes Medical Malpractice. He looks at medical mistakes, hospital errors, physician negligence and more as well as the rules and realities of lawsuits for compensation for victims and their families. TRANSCRIPT

Most people don’t realize how often medical mistakes and medical malpractice occur in this country.  There was a recent study performed by researchers at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine that concluded that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, right after heart disease and cancer.  

If you don’t believe me, Google it.

That article, which was published in the prestigious British Medical Journal concluded that 10% of all deaths in the United States are due to preventable medical mistakes – 250,000 unnecessary deaths each year as a result of medical errors.  Think about that.  That’s 685 people each and every day, 28 people per hour.  Every two minutes of every day, someone in this country dies unnecessarily as a result of a medical mistake.  

Those numbers are staggering, and those numbers don’t even include the men, women, and children who are catastrophically injured each day as a result of medical errors.

The John Hopkins study only covered the deaths.  It’s no wonder that the phone in our office is ringing off the hook with people who believe that they’re the victims of a medical mistake.  And, statistically, most of them probably are.  But, yet, we end up declining the vast majority of those cases.  In fact, I would estimate that we only take one to two percent of the potential medical malpractice clients who call our office.  And, the reason for that is simple.  We will only take a case that we believe, after extensive review and investigation, has merit and has resulted in catastrophic injuries or wrongful death.  And, not every medical mistake warrants that.  At least not a lawsuit filed by our law firm.

We’re set up to carefully review these cases.  We have an in-house doctor, investigators, and specially trained nurse paralegals who review each case in detail very carefully.  Once a case passes our in-house review, we then send it out to highly qualified, independent outside medical experts to get their input and opinion as to the merits of the case.  

This process is expensive and time consuming, but it’s also very important because I want to make sure that we provide our clients with the best possible information about what actually happened during their hospitalization or medical care, because many times they don’t even know.  And, I also want to provide them with the most effective representation that we can.  And, that comes from only taking cases that we truly believe in.

Medical Errors - Types and Examples of Mistakes

I’ve learned in my 30 years of doing this that medical mistakes come in all shapes and sizes:

  • Surgical errors 
  • Medication errors
  • Mistakes in diagnosis or treatment
  • Unnecessary operative procedures
  • Mistakes during childbirth and delivery
  • Errors that result in disease and infection
  • Communication errors between doctors and nurses and hospital administrators

You name it, we’ve seen it all.  And, tragically, it often results in death, disability, paralysis, brain injury, and other catastrophic conditions that forever change the lives of our clients and their families who, very often, come to us feeling betrayed by the people and the institutions that they trusted the most. 

And, I know how they feel because my own father died as a result of medical malpractice.  He went in for minor knee surgery and died three days later from a massive pulmonary embolism as a result of a breakdown in communication between the doctors and the nurses at the hospital who were responsible for taking care of him.  My mother and I both know what it feels like to be let down and betrayed by the people we trusted.  We’ve got that firsthand experience with what the John Hopkins researchers were writing about in their article.

Mistakes by Doctors and Nurses During Childbirth

But, some of the saddest cases of all are the medical mistakes that occur during childbirth and which result in catastrophic injuries to children, leaving them with brain injury, paralysis, cerebral palsy, and a lifetime of heartache and decades of disability.  We’ve seen this happen again and again in mistakes made by doctors and nurses in failing to properly monitor the oxygen levels of the mother and her baby during labor and delivery, or giving the wrong medications, or the wrong amounts of medications, during the labor and delivery process.  

Or, doctors who show up late for the delivery, or worse, don’t show up at all.  We’ve seen cases involving doctors who improperly perform forceps deliveries, vacuum deliveries, or they wrongly delay much needed emergency cesarean sections which can often result in brain injuries and brachial plexus injuries to newborn infants and causing them a lifetime of disability.

I’ve seen hospitals that don’t properly staff their labor and delivery floors, resulting in moms and babies not getting the care and treatment that they need.  These cases are so sad because of the catastrophic consequences on a little child who is just beginning his or her life. 

Unnecessary Procedures and Treatments for Hospital Profits

And, another area that we’re seeing more and more frequently these days involves hospitals and surgical centers and other healthcare providers who are persuading unsuspecting patients to undergo procedures and treatments that are risky and unnecessary simply so the hospital or the doctor can generate income and increase their profits.  Believe me, it happens.  I know you don’t want to believe that it does, but it does. 

I handled a case several years ago where an otherwise completely healthy young man in his 30’s was persuaded by his doctor to undergo a manipulation under anesthesia, also known as an MUA, which is a very controversial procedure.  The evidence at trial showed that the doctor and surgical center had teamed up and created a scheme to turn a routine hundred-dollar chiropractic treatment into a $30,000 surgical center procedure which, of course, was billed to the patient’s insurance company.  

After intensive investigation, a whistleblower nurse finally came forward and testified that, in her opinion, the only reason that these procedures were being performed at the surgical center was so that the center could make money, not because the patients needed it.  And, eventually, the State of Florida shut down the facility after this incident.  But, unfortunately, due to a medical mistake that took place at the surgical center during the MUA, the patient, our client, was deprived of oxygen during the procedure and, to this day, years later, is still in a persistent vegetative state requiring around-the-clock medical care and treatment, just to stay alive.  

It’s a very sad commentary on the state of healthcare and the medical system in the United States of America today.  Medicine for money.

Florida Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

I think one of the most important things that people need to be aware of when considering whether they want to pursue a medical malpractice case is that the laws governing medical malpractice vary from state to state.  In Florida, for example, Chapter 766 of the Florida Statutes requires that an extensive pre-sue process take place before a patient can even file a lawsuit against a doctor or hospital, no matter how clear the medical mistake may be.  I describe this for my clients as a little “mini lawsuit” that is required by law to take place before the actual lawsuit can even be filed.  

Most lawyers in Florida would not even begin to know how to navigate through this complicated process.  

And, so, it’s important that people do their homework carefully and make sure that they retain a law firm that has the special expertise and the track record and the resources necessary to handle these complex and expensive cases. 

I tell all my clients in our very first meeting, “You don’t want to go from being a victim of medical malpractice to being a victim of legal malpractice, too.”  So, do your homework.  Check out the law firm.  Check out the lawyers.  And, make sure that they do have the expertise necessary to represent you and your family members when you really need them.

Robert W. Kelley Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer   Contact Information: [hidden email] or  954.522.6601