Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. For parents, learning that their newborn has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy can be devastating. This condition often results from brain damage that occurs before, during, or shortly after birth. While cerebral palsy can have various causes, one significant cause is medical malpractice. If you suspect that your child’s cerebral palsy is due to medical negligence, you may wonder if you can sue for medical malpractice in Florida. Domnick Cunningham & Yaffa is here to provide clarity on this complex issue.

Can You Sue for Medical Malpractice if Your Baby is Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy in Florida?

Understanding Cerebral Palsy and Its Causes

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects muscle coordination and movement. It is caused by damage to the developing brain, which can occur in several ways:

  • Prenatal Causes: Infections, exposure to toxins, or genetic mutations can lead to brain damage before birth.
  • Perinatal Causes: Complications during labor and delivery, such as oxygen deprivation (hypoxia) or trauma, can result in brain injury.
  • Postnatal Causes: Infections, brain injury, or severe jaundice after birth can also cause cerebral palsy.

When cerebral palsy is linked to medical malpractice, it often involves perinatal causes. Instances where medical negligence might occur include failure to monitor fetal distress, delayed C-sections, improper use of delivery instruments, and not treating infections or jaundice promptly.

Medical Malpractice and Legal Grounds

To sue for medical malpractice in Florida, you must establish that medical negligence directly caused your child’s cerebral palsy. Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare professional’s actions deviate from the standard of care, leading to harm. The standard of care is the level of care that a reasonably competent healthcare professional would provide under similar circumstances.

To prove medical malpractice, you must demonstrate the following:

  1. Duty of Care: The healthcare provider owed a duty of care to you and your baby.
  2. Breach of Duty: The provider breached this duty by failing to act according to the accepted standard of care.
  3. Causation: The breach of duty directly caused your baby’s cerebral palsy.
  4. Damages: Your child suffered damages, such as medical expenses, ongoing care costs, pain and suffering, and other related expenses.

The Legal Process of Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Florida

Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit in Florida involves several steps, and understanding these can help you prepare for what lies ahead.

Step 1: Pre-Suit Investigation

Florida law requires a pre-suit investigation before filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. During this phase, you must:

  • Obtain Medical Records: Gather all relevant medical records to support your claim.
  • Consult with Medical Experts: An independent medical expert must review your case and provide a written opinion stating that medical negligence likely occurred.
  • Send a Notice of Intent: Notify the healthcare provider(s) of your intent to file a lawsuit, including the medical expert’s opinion.

This pre-suit investigation aims to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to pursue a medical malpractice claim and to potentially resolve the issue before going to court.

Step 2: Filing the Lawsuit

If the pre-suit investigation supports your claim, you can proceed to file a lawsuit. The complaint will outline the facts of your case, the alleged negligence, and the damages you seek. The healthcare provider(s) will have an opportunity to respond to the allegations.

Step 3: Discovery Phase

During discovery, both parties exchange information and gather evidence. This phase includes:

  • Interrogatories: Written questions that each party must answer under oath.
  • Depositions: Sworn statements taken in person, where witnesses, including medical experts and healthcare providers, are questioned.
  • Document Requests: Requests for relevant documents, such as medical records, policies, and communication between healthcare providers.

The discovery phase is crucial for building your case and identifying the strengths and weaknesses of both sides.

Step 4: Settlement Negotiations and Trial

Many medical malpractice cases are settled out of court. Settlement negotiations can occur at any stage of the process, and your attorney will work to secure a fair settlement that covers your child’s needs.

If a settlement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial. During the trial, both sides will present their evidence and arguments. A judge or jury will then decide whether medical malpractice occurred and, if so, the amount of compensation to be awarded.

Statute of Limitations in Florida

It’s essential to be aware of the statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in Florida. Generally, you must file a lawsuit within two years of discovering the injury or when the injury should have reasonably been discovered. However, there is a four-year maximum limit from the date the malpractice occurred, regardless of when the injury was discovered. Exceptions exist for cases involving fraud, concealment, or misrepresentation by the healthcare provider.

For minors, the statute of limitations is more complex. If the child is under eight years old, a lawsuit can be filed until the child’s eighth birthday. Consulting with an experienced medical malpractice attorney is crucial to navigating these time limits effectively.

How Domnick Cunningham & Yaffa Can Help

Pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit for cerebral palsy can be challenging and emotionally taxing. Domnick Cunningham & Yaffa is dedicated to helping families in Florida seek justice and obtain the compensation they need for their child’s care. Our experienced attorneys will:

  • Conduct a thorough investigation of your case.
  • Consult with medical experts to establish negligence.
  • Handle all legal aspects, from the pre-suit investigation to trial.
  • Advocate for your child’s rights and best interests.

If your baby has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and you suspect medical malpractice, it’s vital to seek legal advice promptly. Understanding your rights and the legal process can help you make informed decisions about your child’s future. At Domnick Cunningham & Yaffa, we are committed to supporting families through these difficult times and ensuring they receive the justice they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and explore your legal options.