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June 3, 2024

New Florida Bill Presented To Cap Damages for Medical Malpractice Cases: What You Need To Know

a gavel and stethoscope on a table with a clipboard that reads medical malpractice

Medical malpractice can have devastating consequences, leaving victims with life-altering injuries and financial burdens. For those affected, seeking compensation through the legal system is a critical lifeline. Recently, however, a new bill has been presented in Florida that aims to cap the damages awarded in medical malpractice cases. This proposed legislation has significant implications for victims of medical malpractice.

What Are the Existing Medical Malpractice Limits?

Before diving into the specifics of the new bill, it’s important to understand the current landscape of medical malpractice laws in Florida. As it stands, Florida has no specific caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. Although a law imposing caps was previously passed in 2003, rulings from the Florida Supreme Court in 2014 and 2017 determined those caps were unconstitutional.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are critical to medical malpractice cases because they compensate victims for intangible losses that cannot be easily quantified, such as physical pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. These types of damages are often the most significant in these cases, as the effects of medical negligence can have long-lasting and profound impacts on a victim’s life.

Economic Damages

Even if the legislature succeeds in passing a bill to cap non-economic damages, economic damages—such as medical expenses, lost wages, and future earning capacity—remain unaffected and are not subject to limitations. This allows victims to seek compensation that covers the actual financial costs incurred due to medical negligence.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages, which are intended to punish particularly egregious or malicious behavior, are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater. These damages go beyond compensating the victim and aim to deter similar future conduct by the defendant and others. This cap ensures that the punishment is proportional to the harm caused while still serving as a significant financial deterrent.

How Does Florida Compare to Other States for Medical Malpractice Limits?

Florida’s proposed limits on non-economic damages would align with over half of the other states in the US, as 32 states have enacted similar legislation. However, in states without such caps, the majority have deemed them unconstitutional, as Florida’s Supreme Court previously determined in its rulings.

The Future of Medical Malpractice Laws in Florida

The ongoing debate over medical malpractice limits in Florida raises questions about the balance between protecting victims’ rights and addressing rising malpractice insurance costs for healthcare providers. While proponents argue that limitations on damages are necessary for the stability of the healthcare system, opponents argue that victims should have the right to seek full and fair compensation for their injuries.

Potential Impacts on Victims

If non-economic damages are capped in Florida, it could limit access to justice for those who have suffered severe and life-changing injuries due to medical negligence. It may also make it more difficult for attorneys to take on medical malpractice cases, as the potential damages awarded may not cover the costs of litigating such complex cases. This could ultimately restrict victims’ ability to hold healthcare providers accountable for their actions.

Florida's Free Kill Law

Commonly referred to as the “Free Kill” law, Florida’s malpractice law uniquely prevents both adult children and parents of adult children from seeking compensation for emotional damages following medical malpractice. This statute restricts many families from obtaining recompense for the pain and suffering experienced after the death of a loved one. Senate Bill 248 proposed adding limits to gain bipartisan support from lawmakers, with the ultimate goal of eliminating this exemption in current Florida law.

How Will Limits on Medical Malpractice Suits Impact Me?

Senate Bill 248 proposed to limit the damages awarded in medical malpractice cases. Understanding how establishing a cap on the amount of compensation that victims can receive for pain, suffering, and other non-economic damages is crucial for victims and their families, as it could significantly affect their ability to obtain fair compensation for the harm they have suffered. The proposed legislation sparked debate among lawmakers, healthcare professionals, and advocacy groups, each weighing the implications for both patients’ rights and the medical community.

Proposed Changes

Caps on Non-Economic Damages: Caps on non-economic damages would be enforced for medical malpractice cases, potentially reducing the amounts victims can claim for pain and suffering. These caps are designed to limit the financial compensation for intangible losses like emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, and mental anguish, ensuring predictability in lawsuit outcomes and potentially lowering healthcare costs.

Aggregate Caps: Aggregate caps may also be included in the proposed legislation, which would limit the total amount a victim can receive from all defendants combined. This means that regardless of the number of parties found liable, there would be an upper limit to the compensation awarded, potentially affecting the final settlement a victim can obtain. Such caps are often debated as they can influence the overall fairness and adequacy of the compensation for victims.

Compensation Gap Elimination: The gap created by not allowing certain claimants to file malpractice lawsuits would be removed, ensuring that all individuals who have potentially suffered from professional negligence have the opportunity to seek justice and compensation through the legal system. This change would promote fairness and accountability across the board, giving every claimant an equal chance to present their case.

SB 248 Proposed Caps on Non-Economic Damages

Potential Malpractice Law Changes

What Are the Latest Updates on the Bill?

Staying informed about the latest developments is essential for understanding how the proposed bill may affect you. Here are the most recent updates:

Advocacy and Opposition

Legislative Progress

What's Next

With the demise of Senate Bill 248 during the Fiscal Policy review, families pursuing medical malpractice compensation can breathe a sigh of relief, as concerns over damage limitations are temporarily set aside. However, while SB 248 was under consideration, four other bills aimed at abolishing the “free kill” law also underwent review and ultimately failed to pass. Advocates for reforming Florida’s medical malpractice laws remain determined to continue their fight for legislative change.

Stay Informed

The push in Florida legislation to limit medical malpractice damages has far-reaching implications for victims and their families. Understanding the current limits, how Florida compares to other states, and the potential impact of malpractice caps, if they are implemented is critical for those who may be seeking justice for themselves or their loved ones. Staying informed about the latest updates and engaging in advocacy efforts can help ensure that your voice is heard in this important debate.

Consult With Our Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been affected by medical malpractice, staying informed and seeking legal advice to navigate these potential changes is essential. For more information and to stay updated on the latest developments, follow our blog and reach out to our team of legal experts. The experienced malpractice lawyers at Farah & Farah are here to work together to ensure justice and fair compensation for all victims of medical malpractice in Florida.

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