A patient who wants to hold a health care provider liable for an act or omission that injured a patient must meet a set of strict standards, which include extensive pre-suit investigation, medical expert testimony and proof of failure to meet the professional standard of care. These standards apply to suits against physicians, chiropractors, dentists, nurses and physical therapists.
However, those requirements do not apply when care is rendered by others in the health care field, such as certified nursing assistants (CNAs), emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and nursing home administrators. What happens when they neglect the people in their care?
Claims against such personnel are for simple, garden-variety negligence, much like claims arising from an auto accident or slip-and-fall. That means they are not subject to Florida law’s rigorous requirements for medical malpractice actions.
Claims against physicians almost always require expert testimony due to the complexities of proving whether and how the professional standard of care was breached. Expert witness fees and related costs can be exorbitant. But for a typical lawsuit against a CNA or EMT, such testimony is not essential to prove whether the defendant acted reasonably under the circumstances.
For instance, if a CNA ignores a patient’s calls for help or fails to properly secure her in her wheelchair, a juror is capable of understanding that those actions are negligent based on his or her experience and common sense. Ditto where an EMT accompanying a patient in an ambulance fails to administer adequate life-saving measures.
That is not to say expert testimony is unhelpful in such cases. There may be times when the correct actions that should have been taken by the health care aide are in dispute. Another issue is whether and how much a patient’s injuries are due to the underlying illness that required medical treatment. This might require expert medical testimony about the cause or causes of the patient’s injuries.
Still another gray area is where a health care aide assists in a procedure performed by a doctor or other medical professional. The standard of care applicable to the doctor will be relevant to evaluating the aide’s conduct under the circumstances.
Moreover, if a defendant health care aide offers an expert opinion to show that reasonable care was taken, that evidence is best countered by the plaintiff calling his or her own expert.
If you suspect you or your loved one has been injured by negligence or neglect of health care personnel at a hospital, nursing home or other treatment center, the personal injury lawyers at Largey Law can determine whether you have a cause of action to recover damages. For a free consultation at any of our offices in Clermont, Tavares and Inverness, contact us online.