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Medical Malpractice Caps: What Do They Mean?

Tort reform. Damages caps. Equal protection. Medical malpractice. These are all terms that seem to be thrown around all over the country as tort reform stays on the agenda for many judges and legislators. Tort reformists believe that “caps” should be placed on the amount an injured person can recover for their injuries, arguing that massive payouts to plaintiffs (the wronged parties bringing the lawsuit) drive up health costs and insurance rates. Opponents of the reform movement assert that caps prevent an injured party from being able to recover the full compensation they deserve. Florida law leans toward the opponents of tort reform, no longer allowing caps on medical malpractice recoveries.

The Modern Beginning in Florida

Although critics of the civil legal system have long challenged the idea of providing harmed individuals and their families with punitive damages, this came to the forefront in Florida in 2003. Punitive damages, also known as non-economic damages, are intended to punish a wrongdoer and essentially make an example out of them to deter other, similarly situated people from acting in a similar reckless or negligent manner.

In 2003, Florida legislators passed a medical malpractice tort reform bill, which set a cap at $1 million for non-economic damages in such cases. This controversial bill came to light again in 2006, when a mother died after giving birth in an Air Force Hospital, and now, more recently regarding damages from an unnecessary surgery. The 2006 case resulted in the Florida Supreme Court ruling that the tort reform bill was unconstitutional under the Florida Constitution. Justice Barbara J. Pariente dispensed with tort reform proponents’ belief that tort reform will lower health care costs by saying there was no “‘rational relationship’ between the cap and any benefit to physicians or patients.” The family of the deceased mother was able to recover the full amount granted by the judge, which was more than twice what would have been collected if the cap had been in place.

The latter case regarding a patient’s alleged unnecessary surgery brings up the controversial issue of retroactivity. In most instances, laws are not retroactive, meaning a new law will not change verdicts reached under old law, even if the old law was deemed ineffective or incorrect. If Florida courts determine that the law is retroactive, then people whose damages were limited under the act may have legal recourse to attempt to collect the full amount they were originally granted before the cap.

Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney Today

Having an experienced medical malpractice attorney that knows how to try complicated cases from start to finish is the best way to know you will be granted the compensation that you deserve. Our Miami medical malpractice attorneys at Alan Goldfarb, P.A. will work tirelessly on your behalf to negotiate with insurance companies, doctors, and lawyers to ensure the best possible outcome. We understand the emotional and financial difficulties victims of medical malpractice can face; contact us for a free consultation with our knowledgeable legal team today.

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