Florida Bill Would Limit Awards in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

A bill filed by Florida Senator John Thrasher, (R-St. Augustine) would limit the amount of money an injured person could win in a lawsuit against a non-doctor for a medical error that results in injury or death. The Florida Times-Union reports that the bill creates a “sovereign immunity” that is aimed at saving the University of Florida’s Shands teaching hospital millions each year in damages paid to victims of medical malpractice.

State law already provides immunity protection to doctors at Shands. In other words, for example, if a bad doctor operates on the wrong side of your body, or on the wrong organ, the maximum payout in compensation is capped at $100,000, regardless of whether or not you have a lifetime of disability ahead as a result of the medical accident. If someone is injured and has children, the award can increase up to $200,000, which is hardly enough to supplement a family income to compensate for a serious injury or to pay for a lifetime of rehabilitative medical treatment. As it now stands, with a cap on the eventual award and the high cost of pursing a medical malpractice lawsuit most cases of medical malpractice are never filed.

Shands estimates it would save about $10 million annually in insurance premiums for medical malpractice if the bill is passed. Since 2007, the teaching college has paid three cases that surpassed $200,000 and 24 that settled above $100,000. A Shands spokesman said the money saved will go to treat the under-served and medically needy but it’s just a drop in the bucket.

How does a bill like this benefit anyone but the hospital? It doesn’t. As imperfect as a personal injury lawsuit might seem, it serves the purpose of keeping doctors on their toes and provides an incentive to minimize medical errors, which are estimated to kill between 100,000 to 200,000 patients a year. As an alternative, why not have the medical establishment more closely monitor its own doctors. The consumer group Public Citizen, in a 2002 analysis, found that 5 percent of doctors are blamed for half of all medical malpractice.

If you or a loved one has been hurt by an error on the part of a medical professional, our Florida medical malpractice attorneys will offer you a complimentary consultation on your case.