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The Top 4 Reasons Why Medical Malpractice Suits Fail

According to a 2016 study by Johns Hopkins University, medical errors are the third-leading cause of the death in the U.S., with up to 440,000 patients dying each year due to mistakes made by healthcare providers. Despite these alarming statistics, the majority of medical malpractice lawsuits are dropped, dismissed, or unsuccessful, leaving countless victims without a remedy. 

To succeed on a medical malpractice claim, a plaintiff must prove that a provider-patient relationship existed, the doctor or other healthcare provider (such as a nurse, dentist, or hospital) was negligent, and the negligence caused the plaintiff’s harm. In addition to these basic elements of a negligence case, many states impose statutory requirements. In Florida, cases are governed by the Florida Medical Malpractice Act, which mandates expert testimony, a pre-suit screening period, and other requirements that heighten the plaintiff’s burden. As a result, winning a medical malpractice claim is a complex, time-consuming, and expensive process that requires experienced legal representation. 

Given the high standards for succeeding on a medical malpractice claim, it’s not surprising that most lawsuits fail. Here are the top four reasons why medical malpractice suits are unsuccessful: 

  1. The plaintiff fails to prove that the healthcare provider deviated from the acceptable standard of care. For a successful medical malpractice claim, it is not sufficient to show that the patient suffered a negative outcome, that a different provider may have acted differently, or even that the defendant committed an error. Instead, the plaintiff must prove—usually through expert testimony—that the provider failed to act with reasonable skill and care in light of the specific circumstances of the case. The core question is whether a similarly skilled healthcare provider would have opted for the same treatment (or lack of treatment) in the same or a similar situation. If the plaintiff cannot demonstrate that the provider fell below the standard of care, the claim will likely not succeed.
  2. The plaintiff is unable to show that the provider’s actions caused the harm. Since most victims of medical malpractice were afflicted with a health problem for which they sought treatment in the first place, it is often difficult to prove that the patient’s harm would not have occurred but for the provider’s negligence. Even if it can be shown that the provider was indeed negligent, the plaintiff still must prove that their injury more likely than not resulted from the negligence, rather than from the underlying condition or other factors.
  3. The expert’s testimony is inadequate. Most states, including Florida, require medical malpractice claims to be supported by testimony from a qualified medical expert, who generally must have experience in the particular field in question. If the plaintiff’s expert witness is not properly qualified, or presents a weak opinion about the defendant’s failure to meet the standard of care, the malpractice claim may fail.
  4. The statute of limitations has expired. In Florida, there is a short two-year statute of limitations for bringing medical malpractice cases. Failure to meet this deadline and other statutory requirements will lead to an unsuccessful claim. 



At Leighton Law, representing victims of medical mistakes is one of our main specialties. We are adept at navigating the complex requirements governing medical malpractice cases, and our expertise has yielded some of the largest malpractice verdicts and settlements in the state. 

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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