Court Characterizes Doctor’s Office Slip-and-Fall Accident as a Medical Malpractice Incident

Earlier this month, a West Virginia appellate court issued a written opinion in a slip-and-fall case illustrating one of the difficulties plaintiffs may encounter when their injury occurs at a hospital or doctor’s office. The issue in the case was whether the plaintiff’s slip-and-fall case should have been characterized as a premises liability case or a medical malpractice case. Ultimately, the court held that since the injury occurred while the plaintiff was seeking “health care related” services, the case was properly considered a medical malpractice case.

Exam RoomThe case involved an elderly woman who accompanied her husband to an urgent care facility. After the couple arrived and checked in, they were shown to the examination room by a medical assistant. The medical assistant instructed the patient to get onto the examination table and wait for the doctor to arrive. As the man attempted to climb onto the table, he fell, landing on his wife. Shortly after the incident, the man died from complications related to the injuries he sustained in the fall.

The man’s wife filed a personal injury case against the urgent care facility under a premises liability theory. However, the urgent care facility claimed that the case should have been brought under the state’s medical malpractice statute, arguing that it was “related” to the provision of health care services. The court agreed.

The Additional Requirements of a Florida Medical Malpractice Case

The import of this case is that in most states, including Florida, medical malpractice cases are subject to a different set of procedural rules than cases involving ordinary negligence. For example, Florida medical malpractice plaintiffs have only two years to file a case after they discover their injuries, compared to the four-year statute of limitations in ordinary negligence cases.

Medical malpractice plaintiffs are also required to submit an affidavit from a medical professional indicating that, in the professional’s opinion, the plaintiff has a valid case against the defendant. Additionally, medical malpractice cases are subject to certain damages caps, limiting the total amount of compensation that a plaintiff can recover, if successful.

Given these requirements and limitations, as a general rule, it is better for a plaintiff to have their case viewed as one of ordinary negligence. However, plaintiffs naming medical professionals, hospitals, or nursing homes as defendants may face attempts by a defendant to characterize their claim as one of medical malpractice.

Have You Been Injured in a Hospital or Doctor’s Office?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while at a hospital or doctor’s office, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, it is important that you are prepared for all of the possibilities, including the fact that your case may be considered a medical malpractice case. A failure to comply with the additional requirements of a Florida medical malpractice case may result in an unnecessary delay or even an early dismissal. For assistance with your claim, contact one of the dedicated medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank. With extensive experience in medical malpractice, personal injury, and wrongful death cases, we understand what it takes to be successful on behalf of our clients. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Employer’s Failure to Conduct Thorough Background Investigation May Be Basis for Liability in Employee’s DUI Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 22, 2017.

State Supreme Court Affirms Dismissal of Claim Against Teacher in Wrongful Death Lawsuit, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 2, 2017.

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