State Legislators Seeking in Reforms to Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Few injuries have the potential to devastate a person emotionally and physically as those caused by the negligence of a doctor. When a doctor fails in his/her duty to provide appropriate and competent treatment, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be in order. A number of efforts were made in recent years to change the law in favor of doctors and malpractice insurance companies in the hopes of discouraging injured patients from pursuing legal action. According to a national study on the number of paid malpractice claims between 1992 and 2004, the number of paid claims decreased by more than 50 percent, but the amount paid per claim increased by 23 percent. These results seem to indicate that while fewer people were suing for malpractice, successful claimants were receiving larger payouts. Reform of the laws related to personal injury claims always seems to be a hot topic among state legislators, and this year sees the same trend. Several bills are under consideration by Florida’s legislature that would change how damages are calculated in medical malpractice lawsuits, as well as the potential liability of HMOs for medical negligence. Whether these bills become law remains to be seen, but lawmakers tend to reintroduce bills that failed to pass previously, so maintaining an awareness of legislative action is important.
Damages represent the amount of money an injured party asks for and receives, if successful, in medical malpractice claims. There are three types of damages– economic, noneconomic and punitive. Economic damages, as the name implies, are quantifiable and relate to past and future medical treatment and lost income/earning potential. Noneconomic damages are not easily quantifiable, and cover pain and suffering the injury caused. Finally, punitive damages are sometimes awarded to punish a defendant for particularly egregious conduct.
Past and future medical treatment is an obvious factor in every personal injury case, including medical malpractice, since many injured claimants require ongoing medical care to counteract the injury caused by the previous doctor. Often, damages of this type can quickly add up to a large number. Consequently, how the law calculates these costs in malpractice cases is a big concern. Under a proposed bill, the medical bills paid by the injured party that have no remaining balance will be paid according to the actual amount paid to the health care provider, and not according to the amount billed. Importantly, the basis for paying damages on past medical treatment with outstanding balances and future medical care will be paid at the rate Medicare pays for the same services to providers in the same area. This calculation is likely to be much less than what the injured claimant will actually have to pay, which reduces the overall value of the malpractice damages award in the long-term.
Health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, are a type of managed health insurance plan that many Americans choose because of the lower cost. One of the distinguishing features of this type of health insurance is that all medical treatment must be coordinated through a primary care physician, and this doctor is only authorized to refer patients to other medical providers if the plan allows it. Thus, HMOs have a considerable amount of influence on the type and amount of medical care a participant can access. Currently, Florida law excludes HMOs from potential liability in medical malpractice cases, but the proposed bills would eliminate that provision, making to possible to hold the HMO legally responsible if a decision related to a participant’s medical care leads to an injury.
Talk to a Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney
Medical malpractice cases are serious and complex legal matters that require the skills of an experienced attorney to properly build and present to a jury. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado takes the time to educate their clients on all phases of a medical malpractice, and understands the importance of the outcome to the victim and their family. Contact us for a free consultation.