Arbitration in Medical Malpractice Cases
Receiving compensation for injuries suffered due to the negligence of a health care provider is essential to recovering lost aspects of the survivor’s life and moving forward with what is likely a new normal for the survivor and his/her family. The ability to recover this compensation through a jury award, however, was limited by Florida legislature in 2003 when it passed a law that capped medical malpractice damages because of high costs for medical malpractice insurance. The validity of this law was recently challenged in court, and the court ruled the cap was unconstitutional and removed it in wrongful death cases. The law is again being challenged on the same grounds in personal injury cases and the Florida Lawyer General recently submitted a brief to the Florida Supreme Court arguing for the necessity of the cap to stabilize the costs for health care. This uncertainty about how much an injured patient can expect to recover at trial may make the option of arbitration a better alternative. Arbitration is a lower cost dispute resolution forum that allows the parties to reach a settlement agreement, and you can still have your own lawyer represent your interests.
Selecting an Arbitrator
Non-binding arbitration is an option for any medical malpractice case involving injury or death due to negligent treatment and is available when either party requests it with the court. Once a party asks for arbitration, the court has 10 days to provide a list of authorized arbitrators. Arbitrators in Florida malpractice cases are either lawyers or health care practitioners with experience in medical negligence lawsuits who have practiced in their respective professions for at least 5 years. Each party can select one arbitrator from the list given to them the court, but if any party fails to make a selection within 20 days, that party loses the right to pick an arbitrator, and the judge is authorized to make the selection. A total of three arbitrators will consider a case – one selected by each party, making two and the third selected by the first two arbitrators.
The role of arbitrator is to act as a disinterested third party, evaluate the evidence presented by each party and issue a decision, which the parties are free to accept or reject. The arbitration hearing must occur within 60 days of the arbitrators’ selection and can still proceed even if not all the parties are present. The arbitrators are permitted to decide liability, the amount of damages to award and the division of responsibility among the parties. They cannot, however, award punitive damages, which is a limitation that could make a traditional trial a better choice in some cases. The proceeding itself is fairly informal with a limited amount of witness testimony and bulk of the evidence presented via written statements or arguments by the parties’ lawyers. A decision from the arbitrators must be received by the parties within 30 days of the conclusion of the hearing, and if the all the parties accept the arbitrators’ decision, the decision is considered a settlement, and it is no longer possible to get a new trial in court. If the parties do not accept it, any party can ask for a new trial, and information about the arbitration cannot be presented in the new proceeding.
Seek Legal Help
The law has many rules and procedures specifically applicable to medical malpractice cases that make the entire process very complex and complicated. In order to have the best possible chance of recovering your losses, it is necessary to work with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer who knows how to navigate through this type of litigation. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado offers that level knowledge and can assist you with your case. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.