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Personal Injury · Wrongful Death · Medical Malpractice

The Role of Patient Compensation Funds in Medical Malpractice Cases

Visiting a doctor, even just for an annual physical, is not an occasion that most people enjoy. Dealing with doctors, and medical personnel in general, is not a situation that anyone can entirely avoid and maintain a decent degree of physical health. There is, however, one reason that seeing the doctor is worth celebrating – pregnancy. This is a time in a woman’s life when she must put a lot of faith in the medical establishment and not ponder the tragic consequences if something goes wrong. Given how high the stakes are and the possibility a child could be lost or left with severe disabilities, medical malpractice lawsuits are a course of legal accountability many parents pursue if unnecessary problems arise during pregnancy, delivery or post-birth. A recent article on Medscape looked at how having no-fault patient compensation funds could affect the willingness of obstetricians to allow vaginal births once the mother had an earlier child by cesarean delivery. Doctors point to the risk of litigation as a hindrance to allowing this delivery and pointed to Florida’s patient compensation fund for birth-related neurological injuries as an example other states could adopt. An overview of how patient compensation funds operate, and the potential downsides of this type of injury recovery system will appear below.

Florida Patient’s Compensation Fund

This state-sponsored fund operates as excess insurance for participating hospitals and physicians. This means that it will pay medical malpractice awards above the amount covered by the primary malpractice insurance provider. All hospitals, other than facilities operated by the state or those with sufficient capital, are required to pay a yearly assessment. Physician participation is optional. Health care providers are still responsible for paying any amount that exceeds what this plan will cover and must pay all punitive damages. This system does not directly affect an injured party, but does in some measure subsidize and lessen the accountability of negligent hospitals and doctors. Essentially, it allows health care providers to pay less for malpractice insurance because they know the state will contribute a significant amount to any jury award.

Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Plan

This compensation plan provides a no-fault method of recovery for birth-related neurological injuries that avoids determining whether the physician was negligent, and instead, an administrative law judge examines cases and determines if a claim will be paid. If an award is granted, it is limited to medical expenses connected with the injuries and necessary care, plus a death benefit of $10,000 if the child died. This system precludes claimants from filing a traditional medical malpractice lawsuit, and as can be seen above, severely restricts how much parents will be compensated. Because of this limitation on legal options for recovery, whether injuries suffered by a child fall within the scope of this law are frequently litigated. A child must experience both physical and mental disability to qualify, and the law specifically excludes premature babies and infants suffering injury due to care received before labor and delivery. Claims under this law must be submitted within five years of the child’s birth. While this system may allow for faster decisions and payouts of awards for claims, the amounts paid will likely be much lower than those awarded at a jury trial, and the parents will not obtain the emotional closure of hearing the legal system say the physician was negligent.

Talk to a Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you or a loved one suffered an injury due to the negligence of a doctor or other medical personnel, there is a limited amount of time you can file a lawsuit to hold these parties accountable. Consequently, it is best to talk to an lawyer as soon as you suspect the treatment received was somehow deficient or incorrect. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber Del Prado has many years of experience working these complex cases, and they can help you. Contact us for a free consultation.

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