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Does Florida Cap Medical Malpractice Damages?

Gavel and Scrubs with stethoscope

Medical malpractice can involve various types of medical errors. Whether the medical error was caused by prescribing or administering an improper medicine dosage or leaving a foreign object inside a patient after surgery, each of these incidents can have grave outcomes for victims. There have even been instances of medical professionals performing a wrong or unrequested surgery on victims. Injured patients have a right to bring these cases to court to receive compensation for incorrect or improper medical treatment. Depending on the kind of medical malpractice, it can be difficult to prove damages. Because the scope of medical procedures is so vast, each medical malpractice case is different. However, if you prove your damages, you may be compensated for your injuries. Depending on where you are bringing your case however, there may be limits to the amount of compensation you can receive from your doctor.

How Does a “Cap” Impact Medical Malpractice Damages?

A “cap” on medical malpractice damages limits the monetary compensation your doctor—or your doctor’s malpractice insurance can be required to pay you if they are found liable. For example, some financial damages in medical malpractice cases are ambiguous or subjective. Florida legislators passed damage cap legislation in the early 2000s to combat the “danger” these subjective damages posed. The fear was that plaintiffs would take advantage of the ambiguity in the law to argue for a windfall because medical malpractice damages were challenging to define or quantify with a dollar amount. It is not clear whether the “unlimited damages” became a problem, but it is clear that damages were successfully capped at a specific amount for all plaintiffs. These "caps" limit plaintiffs' recovery amounts to the disadvantage of many of the most vulnerable plaintiffs.

Are Medical Malpractice Damage Caps Allowed in Florida?

From the early 2000s until 2017, Florida law capped medical malpractice damages at a specified amount. These caps applied to non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, anxiety, loss of companionship, scarring, disfigurement, and more. However, Florida’s highest appellate court ruled medical malpractice damage caps were unconstitutional. The Florida appellate court lifted the medical malpractice damage cap in North Broward Hosp. Dist. v. Kalitan. In that case, the court found that Florida statutes that limited plaintiffs' damages harmed those with more severe injuries disproportionately, which violated the Florida Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. The limits protected medical professionals and their insurance companies, but ultimately, the court found that those harmed by medical malpractice were most disenfranchised. The example provided by the court regarded damages for a lost hand from malpractice and someone left in a permanent vegetative state. In that example, each person's damages and suffering vary widely. The injury is likely traumatic and life-changing for the person who lost their hand; however, that person will still have a life to live, albeit with challenges. The person in a permanent vegetative state effectively has had life taken away from them, a cost that substantially exceeds that of a lost hand. Applying Florida’s former damage cap law, even though the differences in legal damages between the two cases are significant, both plaintiffs would be capped at the same amount of damages.

What Does Removal of Medical Malpractice Damage Caps Mean for Me?

Lifting the medical malpractice damage caps means that if you or someone you know is the victim of medical malpractice, your damages can no longer be limited by the statute. The court, or a jury, will thoroughly assess your case to grant awards that accurately address the harm you have suffered.

Hiring a Medical Malpractice Attorney in Florida

If you or someone you know has been the victim of medical malpractice, you must act quickly to protect your interests. Even in the best circumstances, medical malpractice cases are complicated to litigate. Medical malpractice lawsuits can be incredibly complex because the medical field spans many legal issues involving different kinds of law and legal proceedings. Luckily, you do not have to handle these cases alone. The experienced medical malpractice attorney at The Watson Firm can help you navigate the legal process so you can fifth for the compensation you deserve. We are here to help you build the strongest possible case to achieve your goals. For more information or to schedule a free case evaluation, call us at (850) 607-2929 or contact us online.