Even after being sued for malpractice, many doctors in Florida are still practicing medicine and treating patients. In some cases, officials have even decided to revoke licenses, yet you can still find these doctors taking on unsuspecting patients and clients. A new investigation from the South Florida Sun Sentinel found patients all across the state are at risk, due to officials lagging in taking action against dangerous doctors after lawsuits and investigations for dangerous and negligent behavior.
After reviewing years of data, hearings, and interviewing patients and doctors, the newspaper found that, even when a doctor is found to have acted wrongly, in the vast majority of cases the state does not follow through with disciplinary action. Or, it allows doctors to settle their charges without having to take responsibility for their actions.
Problem is pervasive
The Florida State Department of Health is required to review every malpractice lawsuit filed against a doctor. However, the number of times these reviews lead to discipline is astoundingly low. In fact, the Sentinel’s report found that over the last decade, after reviewing almost 24,000 resolved lawsuits, the state filed disciplinary charges only 128 times. And, doctors are typically permitted to continue practicing while a lawsuit is ongoing, providing an incentive to stretch out a case as long as possible.
The state has a current backlog of 400 unresolved cases against doctors. Even worse, 19 doctors have had new charges filed against them while their other cases sit and wait. However, as the paper reported, officials do not take action against cases too old to prosecute, or cases with payouts less than $50,000. That minimum payout would eliminate about 70% of cases currently in the backlog.
Florida’s “three strikes” law ineffective
Medical boards also have a tendency to settle. Settling these suits effectively voids a “three strikes” law passed in 2004, requiring the state board to revoke the license of any doctor convicted of malpractice three or more times. Settling a lawsuit without admitting guilt keeps a malpractice conviction off a doctor’s record. One Tampa back surgeon, for example, has been brought up on 24 different malpractice charges. All but four charges occurred before the three strikes law. However, he resolved those four with one settlement, leaving his record completely clean and continues to practice surgery and medicine. Settlements can also include confidentiality agreements.
Many of the attorneys interviewed for the Sentinel’s report said, after cases close, they rarely hear from the state department. In fact, some say they have given up on the state ever acting on behalf of their clients and their injuries.
To show medical negligence, you must prove your doctor deviated from the professional standard of care and caused injury to you or your loved one. It can be a complex process to work through, and not one to go through alone, especially when you are trying to recover from your injuries.
The expert lawyers at Yeboah Law Group are experienced in this area of law and are ready to work for you. Contact our attorneys in Fort Lauderdale at 1-800-TELL-SAM or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.