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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

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3 Steps to Take If a Loved One Has Died Due to Suspected Medical Malpractice

When a loved one dies unexpectedly, it’s common for the grieving family members left behind to want to figure out what happened and hold responsible anyone who may have caused the death. This is particularly true if the negligence of a doctor or other healthcare provider is suspected to be a contributing factor.

In Florida, both wrongful death and medical malpractice cases are governed by statute—and unfortunately, these statutes make it difficult for some plaintiffs to recover damages when their loved one has died due to suspected medical malpractice. If you find yourself in this heartbreaking situation and are considering pursuing a lawsuit, acting swiftly and seeking the assistance of an experienced attorney are the keys to maximizing your chances of success. Here are three steps to take immediately:

#1: Request medical records.

Your loved one’s patient chart and medical records will contain information regarding their condition, treatment, and other details about the care they received—all of which will be critical if you opt to pursue a lawsuit. When you review these records, make note of all healthcare providers who were involved in the patient’s care, including physicians, nurses, and specialists, as well as the practices or institutions that employ them. Any of these individuals or entities could potentially be parties to your case.

If you have any trouble obtaining medical records, note that Florida law stipulates that anyone acting as the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is entitled to a copy, or the “next of kin” if a personal representative has not been appointed.

#2: Keep records of medical bills and other expenses.

In addition to your loved one’s medical records, information about the costs related to their treatment and death will be helpful in determining the damages you may be entitled to in a lawsuit. For example, maintain a file with all medical bills received, as well as funeral costs and other out-of-pocket expenses.

#3: Contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.

When considering a wrongful death lawsuit based on medical malpractice, time is of the essence—in Florida, the statute of limitations for these cases is only two years. In addition, medical malpractice cases are some of the most time-consuming and complicated to litigate, and the wrongful death aspect brings another layer of complexity. Florida’s medical malpractice act has an unusual (and heavily criticized) stipulation that when an adult who is over age 25 and does not have a spouse or minor children (defined as those under age 25) dies in a medical setting, no other family member can recover damages for pain and suffering due to the wrongful death. In general, therefore, you can only bring a medical malpractice/wrongful death lawsuit if you are the spouse or child (under 25) of the decedent.

Navigating the complex intersection of Florida’s statutes, as well as the many other factors involved in a medical malpractice case, requires the help of an attorney with significant experience in these types of cases. At Leighton Law, Attorney John Leighton has won some of Florida’s largest medical malpractice verdicts and regularly teaches other lawyers how to handle these cases. If you have lost a loved one due to suspected medical malpractice, our team has the skill and expertise needed to advise you on your options for legal recourse and optimize your chances of success in a lawsuit.

Please call us today at 888.988.1774 to schedule a consultation.

Article by:

John Leighton

A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite

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