FROM THE BLOG
For years, the medical and insurance special interest groups have waged a war against the rights of victims of medical malpractice. The result is a myriad of laws and technicalities designed to prevent the most injured patients from seeking justice in the courts of the State of Florida. There are currently a number of laws on the books in Florida which are the direct result of the lobbying and initiative efforts of special interests such as the Florida Medical Association PAC which is the medical profession’s top special interest group in the State of Florida, as well as the largest malpractice insurance companies in state.
One such example is contained in Florida’s Wrongful Death Act. While this law allows almost any family member (spouse, parent, child, and adult children) to bring a wrongful death lawsuit when their loved one is killed in a car accident or as the result of some other negligent act, it singles out medical malpractice cases and narrows the scope of those who are protected by the civil justice system. Under this law, only a surviving spouse or child under the age of 25 may prosecute a medical malpractice lawsuit. As a result, when medical malpractice kills someone who does not have a surviving spouse or a child under the age of 25, the responsible party will face no accountability for negligence. Thus, even if the negligent doctor or hospital admitted that they committed malpractice and killed a patient, they will never face accountability to that patient’s survivors. This “free kill” provision leaves the most defenseless segments of Florida’s population, including the widowed elderly population and orphaned children, unprotected by medical malpractice tort law, while their doctors and hospitals can practice without accountability.
Additionally, throughout the years, the medical special interests, most notably the Florida Medical Association PAC and the largest medical malpractice insurer in the State of Florida, have repeatedly sought to impose caps on non-economic (“pain and suffering”) damages recoverable by someone injured by medical malpractice. In 2003, these special interest groups successfully convinced Florida lawmakers to pass a law which generally limited non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $500,000 and $1 million in cases involving patients who died due to malpractice or who were left in a “permanent vegetative state”. These caps were even lower in the case of emergency room doctors whose liability for the injuries they caused were limited to $150,000. This cap was predicated on a claimed “medical malpractice crisis”. However, in the case of McCall v. United States the Florida Supreme Court found that there was no evidence of such a crisis as it struck down these caps based upon a violation of equal protection as it “imposes unfair and illogical burdens on injured parties”. Since that decision, Florida elected a new governor who has appointed three new justices to the Florida Supreme Court. These new justices replaced three retiring justices who took part in overruling the medical malpractice caps. Seeing this as an opportunity, the medical and insurance special interest have renewed their battle against your rights by recently introducing a bill to revive caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. The attack on patient rights on this front continues as this bill will likely be considered in the next year.
There are multiple other examples of legislation which have made it more difficult for patients to seek justice in medical malpractice cases. This includes a shorter statute of limitations (2 years) than in other tort / injury cases which generally carry a longer (4 year) statute of limitations. The medical and insurance special interests have also convinced the Florida law makers to make expert witness requirements stricter in medical malpractice cases than in other types of cases. They have fought to deprive Florida patients of their constitutional right to find out a hospital’s track record of adverse medical incidents, they have tried to make it difficult for you to hire a lawyer by sponsoring the 2003 Patient’s Right to Fair Compensation Amendment to the Florida Constitution, and they have prevented infants who suffered life changing brain injuries during a negligent delivery from seeking full compensation for their injuries through the Florida Birth Related Neurological Injury Compensation Plan (NICA). Each of these measures were initiated with one goal in mind – to make it more difficult for medical malpractice victims to seek fair compensation for their injuries. These measures have the unfair impact of shifting the economic burdens of negligent medical care from the insurance companies of those who committed the negligence to those who will suffer the physical and economic impact of it for a lifetime.
Because these and other Florida laws have been made more difficult for medical malpractice victims to seek the assistance of the judicial system for medical negligence, it is vitally important for patients and their families who have been injured or killed by medical malpractice to seek the assistance of lawyers who specialize in this very intricate and technical area of law. At the Patient’s Law Firm, we only represent patients injured by healthcare providers. With over 25 years of combined medical malpractice experience, attorneys Christa Carpenter, RN, Esq., and Eric Czelusta, B.C.S., Esq., have the expertise, knowledge, and skill to navigate your case through these difficult laws and to get you the best result possible if you or a loved one has been injured by medical malpractice or nursing home neglect.
If you need the assistance of a lawyer specializing in this area of the law, please contact the Patient’s Law Firm at 727-281-4357 where your situation will be evaluated, investigated and litigated by our skilled and experienced legal team. We are located in Palm Harbor and represent patients throughout the State of Florida Tampa Bay including Pinellas County, Pasco County and Hillsborough County.