Florida House Seeks to Reinstate Medical Malpractice Caps
A Florida House panel this week backed a proposal to reinstate medical malpractice caps on damages for cases brought in the state, in clear defiance of the state’s supreme court decision that medical malpractice caps are unconstitutional. The proposal, known as PCB CJS 19-02, would reinstate caps on the noneconomic damages associated with medical malpractice cases. Noneconomic damages compensate medical malpractice victims for pain and suffering, emotional distress, disability, disfigurement, and the loss of enjoyment of life that comes with the injuries caused by a medical malpractice claim.
In 2003, medical malpractice damage caps were first introduced and approved by the Florida government. The old law capped noneconomic damages at different amounts, depending on the number of claimants and types of defendants. For example, noneconomic damages were capped at $500,000 for a single claimant and $1,000,000 for multiple claimants in a medical malpractice case against a physician, but the caps were much lower if the lawsuit was brought against an emergency care worker. However, in 2017 the state supreme court decided that caps on noneconomic damages were unconstitutional and struck down caps on future medical malpractice claims.
This is the second time in as many weeks that the panel has put forth legislation for capping damages in Florida lawsuits. Last week, the same state panel suggested capping noneconomic damages at $1,000,000 for personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits that were not caused by medical malpractice. Additional legislation currently being considered would eliminate the legal restriction that bars adult children and the parents of adult children from recovering damages in wrongful death lawsuits that stem from medical malpractice.
Another amendment to medical malpractice law in Florida currently under consideration would eliminate “phantom costs” and letters of protection. Phantom costs are the difference between what healthcare providers charge for services and what they agree to as payment. Letters of protection issued by some law firms to medical professionals and can contain these phantom costs. This proposed amendment would bar juries from considering what healthcare providers charge for their services when determining damages for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Instead, they would only be able to consider the payment accepted from insurance companies to settle the bill.
In addition to proposed legislative changes to medical malpractice law in Florida, the state supreme court has also undergone changes since the beginning of the month. Governor DeSantis appointed three new justices who are expected to make the state court more conservative after longtime members of the state supreme court reached a mandatory retirement age.
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Changes to medical malpractice laws by the legislature or state court system could have a substantial impact on the outcome of your medical malpractice case. To learn more about your legal options after being injured by a healthcare professional, call the office or contact us today at Gary Roberts & Associates in West Palm Beach. Schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced West Palm Beach medical malpractice attorneys today.