Does Florida Have Medical Malpractice Damage Caps?
When you turn to a healthcare provider for care, you expect him or her to properly diagnose and treat you and to ensure that when you leave his or her office, you do so with a positive prognosis. The last thing you expect a doctor, nurse, practitioner, or any other type of healthcare provider to do is harm you. Yet, medical malpractice, which occurs when a healthcare professional deviates from standards in his or her profession and thereby causes injury to a patient, is an eerily common occurrence. How common? It is the third leading cause of death in the United States and accounts for more than $3 billion in lawsuit settlement payouts each year. That amounts to approximately one payout ever 43 minutes. Moreover, studies suggest that medical malpractice accounts for roughly 200,000 patient deaths each year. With those kinds of numbers, it is not unthinkable that you or a loved one should fall victim to medical malpractice.
If a healthcare provider has caused harm to you or someone you care for, you may be able to pursue compensation for your damages via a medical malpractice suit. However, while the state does not cap economic damages such as medical expenses, physical therapy, in-home care costs, and funeral expenses, it does cap non-economic damages. Non-economic damages, as defined by Florida law, include inconvenience, pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and other nonfinancial losses. If you plan to pursue economic damages, it is important that you understand those caps and for how much you can sue the negligent provider.
Limitation on Non-Economic Damages
The state’s limitations on non-economic damages vary on a case by case basis and are dependent upon the number of claimants involved, the number of practitioners involved, and the severity of injuries. For instance, in most cases non-economic damages shall not exceed $500,000 per claimant and no practitioner shall be held liable for more than $500,000 in non-economic damages regardless of how many patients are involved in a single claim. However, if the practitioner’s negligence resulted in the death or permanent vegetative state of a patient, the state will cap the total non-economic damages recoverable from all healthcare providers, regardless of the number of claimants, at $1 million.
The cap may increase to $1 million in a few circumstances in which death or vegetative state is not an outcome. This may occur if the courts prove one of two things to be true:
- The trial courts determine that manifest injustice would occur unless the courts agree to increase non-economic damages; and/or
- The trier of fact finds that the provider’s negligence caused a catastrophic injury to a patient.
If the claimant can prove either of these to be true, the state may increase non-economic caps to $1 million.
In cases that involve non-practitioner defendants, the Florida courts raise the caps to $750,000 and $1.5 million respectively. In instances in which the provider works in an emergency room setting, damage caps are significantly lower, at $150,000 and $300,000 respectively.
Defining “Catastrophic Injury”
As mentioned above, the state may raise the caps if the provider’s negligence resulted in catastrophic injury. What is catastrophic injury? The same statute that outlines the damage caps also defines what injuries the state views as being “catastrophic.” Those are as follows:
- Severe brain or close-head injury that results in serious communication disturbances, severe motor or sensory disturbances, severe episodic neurological disorders, or serious disturbances of cerebral function;
- Amputation of a hand, foot, arm, or leg that results in the loss of use of that appendage;
- Spinal cord injury that results in the severe paralysis of a leg, arm, or the trunk;
- Second-degree burn that effects at least 25 percent of the total body surface or a third-degree burn that affects at least five percent of the face and hands;
- Loss of reproductive organs which thereby results in the inability to procreate; or
- Blindness, defined as total and complete loss of vision.
If yours or your loved one’s injury resulted in what the law deems as a “catastrophic injury,” you may be entitled to a greater share of non-economic damages.
Work With a Miami Medical Malpractice Attorney
If you or a loved one is the victim of medical malpractice, you have a long, uphill battle ahead of you. Only 15 percent of personal injury lawsuits filed each year involve medical malpractice claims. Of those, more than 80 percent end with no payment to the injured party and his or her family. You can imagine what these numbers mean for non-economic damages.
Non-economic damages are just as debilitating as economic damages, if not more so. Our team at Spencer Morgan Law fights on clients’ behalves to prove this and to ensure they recover the full amount they rightfully deserve. If you wish to recover all that you deserve for your pain, suffering, and more, schedule your free consultation with one of our Miami medical malpractice lawyers today.