Binding Arbitration in Medical Malpractice Cases: Is This a Good Option?
Realizing a decision by your doctor harmed you can be devastating. The thought of challenging a doctor’s medical judgment leaves many people uncomfortable at best and fearful at worst. This hesitancy stems from the fact that most people are taught from a young age to view doctors as authority figures who know best and should be trusted to make decisions related to health issues, but doctors are human and fallible, so mistakes happen. However, you should not have to deal with the long term consequences of this mistake without an opportunity to hold the responsible doctor accountable for actions taken or not taken. Medical malpractice lawsuits are designed to handle these situations and hopefully put some of the power back in the hands of the injured patient. The downside to traditional litigation of a malpractice claim is the time, expense and emotional toll it exacts on the plaintiffs. There is also the unpredictability of a jury’s decision that could go against the injured party. In an effort to streamline, simplify and make outcomes more predictable, Florida law provides for voluntary binding arbitration at the very beginning of a dispute. In order to use this alternative dispute option, the defendant – the doctor, typically – must accept liability, leaving the amount of damages the only issue left to settle.
Selecting Binding Arbitration
When a malpractice suit is initiated, notice must first be sent to the parties alleged to have caused the injury so they can assess the claim and decide how to proceed. Once this notice is provided, either party has the option of asking the other to enter binding voluntary arbitration, which, as noted above, is limited to determinations of damages. However, the parties retain the right to independently settle the suit at any time. If the parties agree to use this process, they both consent to abide by the arbitrator’s decision. This type of arbitration has three arbitrators – one chosen by the party alleging injury, one by the defendant, and an administrative law judge that acts as chief arbitrator.
Although the decision of the arbitration panel is binding, if the chief arbitrator determines that agreement is not possible, he/she can call for a new panel of arbitrators or declare that no agreement can be reached among the arbitration panel members in the case. If no agreement can be reached, the parties then have the option of proceeding towards regular litigation of the claims.
Payment of the Award
When it comes to determining how much the defendant should pay, the negatives of this process come out. Damages for noneconomic injury, like pain and suffering, are subject to a $250,000 cap, and punitive damages are not available at all. The defendant still has the right to challenge an award given by an arbitration panel, although the defendant is responsible for paying the injured party’s lawyer’s fees and costs and the fees for the arbitration process.
Contact a Malpractice Lawyer
If you are looking for a quick resolution and payout of your medical injury claim, binding arbitration may be a good option. The lawyers at the Miami law firm of Pita Weber Del Prado routinely deal with all kinds of medical malpractices cases and will be able to advise you on best dispute resolution choice for you and your family. Contact us to schedule a free consultation today.