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Can a physician’s apology be held against them in Florida?

On Behalf of | Jan 5, 2024 | Medical Malpractice Defense |

When a patient experiences an adverse outcome to a medical procedure or their condition suddenly worsens despite your best efforts, it’s only natural to want to express your sympathies to them or their family – but physicians have long been counseled against the practice for fear that their words would be used against them in a medical malpractice claim.

Times have changed. Both physicians and lawmakers have come to realize that muzzling a physician when they want to communicate with a patient or their family can actually make a situation worse – not better. Thus, “apology laws,” like the one here in Florida, have come into being.

What’s Florida’s rule on apologies?

Essentially, the law in this state separates expressions of sympathy from actual admissions of fault. In general, expressions of sympathy and sorrow over the patient’s condition are not admissible as evidence in a medical malpractice claim – but admission of actual responsibility can be used in court.

For example, a physician might safely say something like, “I am sorry there was nothing else to be done to save your mother,” but they could not safely say, “I am sorry I misread your mother’s lab results.” The first is an acknowledgment of the patient’s loss and the family’s grief, while the latter is an acknowledgment of culpability.

It’s important to realize that avoiding a medical malpractice lawsuit is often easier when a patient or their family members don’t feel like their losses or tragedy is being dismissed or ignored – and an expression of sympathy can do a lot. 

If you do find yourself facing a medical malpractice claim, experienced legal guidance is essential.


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