Does Florida limit what I can recover in a medical malpractice case?
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We rely on the care and thoroughness of doctors and nurses when we suffer accident injuries. While patients generally accept that healthcare providers are not perfect, no one expects to leave a hospital or doctor’s office in worse condition than when they arrived.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a doctor or nurse, nationwide medical malpractice lawyers at Zinda Law Group can listen to your case and see whether you are eligible for compensation. Call (800) 863-5312 and you will receive a confidential, free case evaluation from a Florida medical malpractice attorney.
Florida medical malpractice faqs
Here, we will answer just a few frequently asked questions (FAQs) about medical malpractice in Florida. This can help steer you in the right direction if you are trying to decide whether you need to hire a Florida medical malpractice lawyer.
Do I Need a Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Florida?
To determine whether you need a Florida medical malpractice attorney, you must first find out whether your doctor committed medical negligence. We will provide you with a description of medical negligence later in this article so that you can begin to understand the contours of a medical malpractice case.
What Do I Do if I was Hurt in Treatment?
If you have been a victim of medical malpractice during treatment of a healthcare problem or injury, Florida and every other state provides an avenue for recovery. You can file a negligence claim against your healthcare provider in the appropriate court and either negotiate a settlement with your healthcare provider or, if you cannot get the settlement you deserve, you might go to trial.
How Much Can I Recover for a Medical Injury in Florida?
You may be concerned about damage limits in Florida because up until recently, Florida had a law that dictated how much a plaintiff can recover for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. However, there was a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court in 2017 that changed the law, stating that limits (caps) to the damages a victim can receive are unconstitutional. We will give this question more attention in the following section.
Florida medical malpractice recovery limits
The question of whether there is a cap to the amount you can recover for a medical malpractice case in Florida could simply be answered: “not anymore.” The old statute that capped the amount that you could recover for noneconomic damages was replaced by the 2017 Florida Supreme Court ruling that it is unconstitutional to limit the amount of noneconomic damages a plaintiff can receive in a medical malpractice case. In modern practice, courts do not cap a plaintiff’s recovery amount, thereby complying with Florida’s updated laws.
Florida’s Past Statutory Damage Caps
First, Florida’s statute categorized various injuries and defendants to cap how much a plaintiff in a medical malpractice suit could receive under particular circumstances. Overall, plaintiffs could receive up to $500,000 per plaintiff in noneconomic damages for the medical negligence of a practitioner and up to $750,000 in noneconomic damages for the medical negligence of a nonpractitioner. However, there were exceptions to this general rule; the statute provided additional rules for certain kinds of injuries.
Type of Injury
The statute provided a definition of “catastrophic” injuries, or permanent impairments, which helped plaintiffs to know which injuries are recoverable—an essential element to any medical malpractice case. That is, if you sustained a “catastrophic injury” that is listed under the statute, you knew that there was a legal remedy for the harm that you experienced.
Although the noneconomic damages limit for a plaintiff against a practitioner was usually $500,000, the plaintiff may have been able to recover up to $1 million if the malpractice caused the plaintiff to go into a permanent vegetative state or resulted in the plaintiff’s death. Similarly, a plaintiff who went into a permanent vegetative state or who died at the hands of a nonpractitioner may have been able to increase his or her damages from $750,000 to $1.5 million. These damage limits would have been increased if the trial court determined that it would be an injustice to limit noneconomic damages because the noneconomic harm the plaintiff suffered was so severe and “the defendant’s negligence caused a catastrophic injury to the patient.”
The statute also described a separate cap for the noneconomic injuries a plaintiff sustains while receiving emergency services or care. In those cases, you could not receive more than $150,000 for noneconomic damages per plaintiff or more than $300,000 for noneconomic damages in total.
Practitioners vs. Nonpractitioners
You may have noticed that under the statute, a practitioner was liable for fewer noneconomic damages than a nonpractitioner. “Practitioner” included a licensed person or any association, corporation, firm, partnership, or other business entity for which a practitioner individual works. The term also included hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers.
Florida Supreme Court Ruling
You might be thinking that it seems arbitrary and unfair to assign limits to how much a plaintiff can be compensated for his or her pain and suffering. The highest court in Florida agrees with that sentiment.
In 2017, Florida’s Supreme Court ruled that the law limiting the noneconomic damages of medical malpractice victims violates equal protection rights. The court there claimed that the reason for the law limiting noneconomic damages was to combat the malpractice insurance crisis at the time the law was created. It reasoned that since there is no longer an insurance crisis, any limits to noneconomic damage awards hurt plaintiffs who suffer the worst harm.
So, What is the Law NOW?
The saga of the once-necessary-but-complicated statute is over. Healthcare providers are now well-insured enough to accommodate whatever price tag a court chooses to assign to a plaintiff’s mental and emotional pain and suffering. After over a decade under Florida’s damage cap statute, there is finally no limit in Florida to the amount that a victim of medical malpractice can receive as compensation.
What is medical malpractice?
As we mentioned earlier, your claim will only be successful if your doctor or nurse committed medical malpractice by being negligent. Medical negligence, or medical malpractice, occurs when a healthcare provider’s failure to meet his or her duty to provide a patient with adequate care results in the patient being injured. You must prove the following four elements of medical malpractice to win your case:
1. Your Doctor Owed You a Duty of Care
The doctor owed you a duty of care at least as good as the local standards in similar areas of practice. You can use an expert witness—another doctor who practices in the same field as the doctor who harmed you—to testify about what standard of care your doctor owed you.
2. Your Doctor Breached the Duty of Care
When your doctor fails to provide the level of care that a qualified doctor in his or her field would provide, then he or she has breached the duty of care you deserved. It is possible that your doctor failed to get your informed consent to the procedure by not adequately informing you of the risks, or that your doctor did not follow standard practices while performing your procedure.
3. You Received an Injury for Which You Can Be Compensated
Economic and noneconomic damages are typically available to victims of personal injuries. We alluded to noneconomic damages earlier, which are meant to compensate victims for the pain and suffering they experience from their injuries. Courts also award economic damages to cover the victim’s monetary expenses from the injury, including bills for surgeries and missed wages from time off work.
4. Your Doctor Caused Your Injury
You can only hold your doctor liable if he or she caused your injury. Even if your doctor was negligent and you received an unrelated injury, you will not have met all four elements of a medical malpractice suit.
What to do after a medical injury
After you have been injured by your doctor or nurse, gather all of the evidence of your injury. This includes any bills, scans, X-rays, and prescriptions that would indicate the type of injury you sustained. Before you file a claim against your healthcare provider, you should consult a medical malpractice lawyer in Florida to see if your case is strong enough for the lawsuit to be worthwhile.
Our Florida medical malpractice lawyers want to see how we can help you
You do not want to miss out on the compensation that you deserve for the way your physician hurt you. Our talented Florida medical malpractice attorneys want to see if your case makes you eligible for recovery, and if you are, they want to get you the maximum compensation under Florida’s laws. If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical negligence, call the Zinda Law Group’s Florida medical malpractice lawyers at (800) 863-5312 in order to schedule your free consultation.
Our medical malpractice lawyers in Florida have experience with clients like you who have been mistreated by their healthcare providers. You do not deserve to continue suffering from the negligence of a doctor or nurse. When you work with us, our No Win, No Fee Guarantee ensures that you do not pay us unless we win your case for you.
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