Florida Medical Malpractice Laws
Each state has their own set of medical malpractice laws in place, and it is important for patients to understand those laws and how they could affect their case. The following are the basics of the laws in Florida.
Did you know that it is estimated that medical errors cause the deaths of more than 200,000 people in the U.S. each year? Did you also know that of those cases only around 15% of claimants file lawsuits?
Unfortunately, even in this slim margin of claimants making cases, more than 75% of them fail to win a payment at all.
Should an individual consider filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, specifically a medical malpractice lawsuit in the state of Florida under Chapter 766 of the Florida State Code, careful case-specific considerations in light of the applicable medical malpractice statutes under Florida jurisdiction with legal counsel is highly advisable?
In any medical malpractice claims case in filed under the jurisdiction of the state of Florida, which occurs whereby a patient receives negligent medical care in the state of Florida geographically or by a Florida-based liable party, the following Florida state-specific medical malpractice lawsuit attributes will apply to any Florida medical malpractice lawsuit.
Critical Elements in Any Florida Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Filing, as of 2016
Indicative of the relative complexity of filing medical malpractice claims, the following are the general attributes of any Florida medical malpractice claims case that a potential claimant must consider prior to filing including:
- Pre-Suit Notification Procedural Rules
- Medical Expert Witness Testimony
- Comparative negligence
- Statutes of Limitation
- Degrees of Liability
- Statutorily imposed ceilings to damage awards
In all instances, case-specific factors when coupled with jurisdiction-specific statutes and procedural rules will dictate the appropriate course of any potential medical malpractice lawsuit, which patients should begin the process of filing in the immediate aftermath of the discovery of harm caused by questionable medical treatment.
The Applicable Statutes of Limitation in Florida Medical Malpractice Claims Cases
Florida’s malpractice law concerning statutes of limitation requires an injured party to initiate a medical negligence case within two years from the date of the incident or within two years after an injury caused by medical negligence could have “reasonably” been discovered.
Even with this latter “discovery” rule, Florida bars all medical malpractice lawsuits that are not filed within four years of the original event that purportedly gave rise to the injuries. Florida makes exceptions to this should the injured, or aggrieved party suffers a loss was a minor or the patient were deemed incompetent, or otherwise if the medical malpractice was fraudulently concealed.
Comparative Negligence under Florida Medical Malpractice Law
The state of Florida adheres to a pure form of comparative negligence, which proportionally reduces any prospective damage awards by patients about the percentage of fault assigned to the plaintiff patient in a given Florida medical malpractice lawsuit.
For example, should a patient ignore a physician’s advice to procure follow-up care and neglect to take outstanding prescribed medications, the patient will likely face defendant counter claims of comparative negligence incurred by the patient by way of failure to adhere to medical advice or any other circumstance that aggravates the patient’s damages in an action beyond the scope or ordinary course of a reasonable patient’s response to medical treatment.
Florida also applies principles of joint and several liabilities when more than one defendant contributed to the medical malpractice injuries. In Florida, if the damages exceed an amount of $25,000, the liability is divided among defendants according to their portion of responsibility. Teaching hospitals and the state’s university system are exempt from liability.
Further, under certain circumstances non-teaching hospitals and medical care centers may be vicariously liable for malpractice caused by non-employees. Moreover, legal counsel costs are borne on a contingency basis, with plaintiffs incurring no costs unless a verdict or settlement is reached, with even legal fees being capped to ensure patient recovery of the bulk of the damages awarded or settlement amount reached.
Statutory Damage Caps in Florida Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Florida has established hard upper limits on the type and amount of damages that an injured party can recover. Non-economic damages (i.e. damages for pain and suffering) in Florida are capped at $500,000 for individual defendants and $750,000 for entities. These caps increase to $1 million if the injured party dies or is left in a permanent vegetative state.
Medical Expert Testimony Requirements and Notice of Intention to File Suit Mandates in the State of Florida before Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in 2016
Florida has established detailed and complex filing requirements that interact with the statute of limitations deadlines. Initially, a party injured by medical malpractice is required to notify his health care provider in writing of his intent to file a malpractice lawsuit before he can initiate the lawsuit. The notice must include an affidavit from a qualified medical professional attesting to the validity of the medical malpractice claim.
This notice starts a 90-day investigation period, during which time the health care provider can respond with a statement of its desire to settle the case. If the health care provider does not wish to settle, then the injured party must file his or her lawsuit within 60 days after the expiration of the 90-day investigation period. Certain aspects of this process will stop the applicable statute of limitations deadline from affecting an injured party’s case, but other aspects of that deadline remain applicable.
According to some reports, medical errors cause serious injuries or premature deaths of more than 200,000 people in the United States each year. Of those injuries or deaths, less than 20% of claimants file lawsuits, and less than 20% of the injured parties who file claims receive any monetary award to compensate them for their injuries.
Many injured parties that fail to receive any monetary award are unaware of the complexities of their state’s malpractice laws, and they either file a claim past filing deadlines, they fail to account for damages limitations, or they discount any of several procedural and administrative rules that must be followed for a successful medical malpractice action.
Medical malpractice claims in Florida, as in every other state, are never simple affairs, even when the injuries appear to be the obvious result of professional medical negligence.
A party who has suffered a malpractice injury should consult with a qualified attorney who is familiar with the state’s complex malpractice laws as soon as possible after the injury occurs. The applicable deadlines and limitations will continue to run until a plaintiff take the applicable actions to stop any filings deadlines from expiring.