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Do Florida Doctors Have a Duty to Protect Non-Patients?

Most Florida medical malpractice claims involve a medical professional and their patient. Yet some cases have raised the issue of whether other people can bring a claim against a medical professional where the plaintiff suffered an injury because of the professional’s negligent professional conduct.

In May 2016, a man was driving his truck on a highway when he crashed with a horse-drawn hay trailer, killing one passenger and injuring the other four passengers. In April 2015, the man had been declared blind and instructed not to drive. However, about six weeks before the crash, a doctor told the man that his vision had improved, and that could drive, with some restrictions. After the collision, the plaintiffs argued that the doctor was liable for their injuries because the man’s vision was still below the minimum vision standards required to drive according to state law. The plaintiffs argued that the doctor owed a duty to the injured parties to warn the man that his vision did not meet the standards to drive under state law.

In that case, the court considered whether the doctor could be held liable in such cases. The court found that it was somewhat foreseeable that a person who drivers with impaired vision might cause a car accident. However, the eye doctor did not treat or provide medication to the patient that led to his vision impairment. In addition, the court found the public policy concerns persuasive, such as how the imposition of a duty might affect the doctor-patient relationship, and such a duty would lead to higher health care costs. Therefore, the court found a doctor does not have a duty to third parties based on a doctor’s failure to warn a patient about driving risks resulting from the patient’s medical condition. However, the court found that the injured passengers could still sue the doctor because the driver had agreed to assign his medical malpractice claim and any recovery to the injured passengers.

In any negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff. Florida courts have found that mental health care providers do not have a duty to protect third parties from a potentially dangerous patient, in part because of the effect it would have on patient-therapist relationships. In contrast, Florida courts have found that Florida doctors must warn of the genetically transferable nature of a patient’s condition, and that the duty extended to a patient’s child.

Contact a Florida Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you believe you or someone you love suffered from medical negligence, contact an experienced Florida medical malpractice attorney. A medical malpractice claim requires extensive work and resources from an experienced attorney. The Miami personal injury lawyers at Friedman, Rodman & Frank have the legal expertise and investigative team to build a strong medical malpractice case. We handle a broad range of medical negligence cases, including surgical errors, medication errors, birth injury, emergency room errors, and misdiagnosis. Call us at 305-448-8585 or contact us online to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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