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Can Medical Malpractice Cases Be Brought Against Doctors and Hospitals during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Over the past several months, COVID-19 has infected millions of Americans, tragically resulting in more than 300,000 deaths and placing an unprecedented burden on the healthcare system. As doctors and other healthcare providers have grappled with a lack of resources and uncertainty over how to properly treat the novel virus, their actions (or failure to act) have sometimes harmed patients. However, given the extreme challenges facing the medical community, those who have been injured by a healthcare provider may be left wondering whether they can still bring medical malpractice lawsuits during the pandemic. While malpractice suits can certainly be filed, plaintiffs may face a steeper burden due to federal legislation that provides limited liability protection for healthcare workers.

Under normal circumstances, healthcare providers may be held liable for medical malpractice if their actions are found to have deviated from the accepted standard of care. Although this standard may vary, it is generally defined as what a reasonably prudent and similarly trained provider would do under similar circumstances. During the current pandemic, however, healthcare providers have argued that the appropriate standard of care is unclear when it comes to treating COVID-19 due to the many uncertainties surrounding the virus. Several states have responded by enacting legislation that offers varying degrees of liability protection, often with the result that providers may only be held liable for medical malpractice if they commit gross negligence (demonstrating a reckless disregard for a patient’s well-being) or willful misconduct (intentionally harming someone).

While Florida has not implemented liability protection for healthcare providers at this time, medical malpractice plaintiffs may encounter obstacles due to federal law. On March 17, 2020, the federal government issued a declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act that offers broad immunity from liability for those involved in providing medical treatment for COVID-19. Similar protections are offered under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which states that healthcare providers will not be liable for services related to the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of COVID-19 in patients with confirmed or suspected cases.

While the federal liability protections may seem discouraging for patients who seek to recover damages for injuries sustained due to medical malpractice during the pandemic, there are exceptions to the immunity these laws provide. For example, healthcare providers may still be held liable for gross negligence, willful misconduct, and actions not related to the treatment of COVID-19. Therefore, if you or a loved one has suffered harm after receiving medical care, it is worthwhile to speak with an attorney about your case. But don’t delay—in Florida, medical malpractice claims have a short two-year statute of limitations. Call the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Leighton Law today at 888.988.1774!

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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