Seven years ago, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed into law limits to the amount of money that patients could recover in medical malpractice cases. Those favoring the malpractice caps said that such limits were necessary to help drive down the cost of health care.
Before the limits were imposed, Florida had the highest medical malpractice rates in the country. The argument was that the cost of such high rates was being passed onto patients by doctors, who would charge more for their services or limit the time for patient visits, therefore affecting the quality of medical care.
What Are Florida's Medical Malpractice Caps?
The law does not limit a plaintiff's access to compensation for actual financial costs associated with the medical malpractice incident — such as medical bills and lost income. Those types of costs are known as economic damages. The law limits noneconomic damages, like compensation for pain and suffering, at 0,000 per doctor and 0,000 per hospital.
The law includes two exceptions to the medical malpractice damages limits. Caps on noneconomic damages are lower for emergency room doctors: 0,000 per doctor and 0,000 total (from all health care practitioners). In cases of serious negligence resulting in egregious errors, the limits are higher: million from doctors and 0.5 million from hospitals.
What Are The Real Results Of Medical Malpractice Caps?
As a South Florida personal injury and medical malpractice law firm, Greenberg Stone & Urbano is on the front lines when it comes to medical malpractice lawsuits and their effect on health care consumers and the health care system. From our own professional experiences and data from independent studies, we know the following to be true about the effects of Florida's medical malpractice damages caps:
- Medical malpractice damages limits have a minuscule effect on health care costs, including consumer health care insurance premiums. A 2004 report by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that limiting damage awards would only lower health care costs by about 0.4-0.5 percent.
- Because the medical malpractice damages caps have not lowered the cost of medical malpractice insurance for doctors, fewer doctors carry medical malpractice insurance because it is too expensive. This means that victims of medical malpractice by uninsured doctors may have no source of financial compensation. In 2008, a study by the Sun-Sentinel newspaper discovered that one-third of Miami doctors did not have medical malpractice insurance, and almost one-fourth of doctors in Broward and Palm Beach counties were uninsured.
- Fewer medical malpractice victims are filing claims, which means that fewer medical malpractice victims are achieving the justice they deserve. According to the Florida Trial Court Statistical Reference Guide, professional malpractice and products liability claims dropped more than 40 percent between 2000 and 2009.
- Some medical malpractice victims are not getting the justice they deserve when their noneconomic damages for pain and suffering are higher than the cap.
- Despite the drop in medical malpractice filings, medical errors occur in the United States more frequently than in other developed countries, according to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Thus, the decrease in medical malpractice filings does not mean that fewer doctors are committing acts of medical malpractice.
If you have questions about how Florida's medical malpractice damages caps might affect your medical malpractice claim, call (305) 692-0055 or contact us online for more information from the Florida medical malpractice plaintiffs' law firm of Greenberg Stone & Urbano.
Nov. 04, 2010 24–7PressRelease/