The Florida Bar

Medical Malpractice

December 13, 2022

Medical malpractice is negligence committed by a medical professional. When a physician makes a preventable error that results in injury, the patient may file a medical malpractice suit for damages.

The Duty of Care

A physician has to owe a duty of care to a patient before their competency in performing the duty can be judged. Generally, once a doctor voluntarily decides to assist others or come to their aid, the doctor becomes liable for any injury that results from any negligence during that assistance. Once the requisite doctor-patient relationship is established, the doctor owes to the patient a duty of care and treatment with the degree of skill, care, and diligence as possessed by, or expected of, a reasonably competent physician under the same or similar circumstances. This can be different than the standard of care for treatment and surgery.

Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim

For negligence to be actionable, the following elements must exist:

  • There must be a duty owed to someone,
  • There must be a breach of that duty, and
  • The breach of that duty must result in harm or damage that is proximately caused by that breach.

In addition, “proximate cause” is a legal term that, in the medical malpractice sense, essentially asks whether, “but for” the alleged negligence of the medical professional, the harm or injury to the patient would have occurred. If the injury still would have occurred regardless of the alleged act of malpractice, then there is no valid claim.

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or substitute for the advice of a lawyer.