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Nov05

Florida Medical Malpractice Statistics

Florida Medical Malpractice Statistics and the Truth about the Alleged Florida Medical Malpractice “Crisis.”

Data supporting caps on Florida Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Cases “is most questionable” according the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Estate of McCall v. United States, 134 So. 3d 894 (Fla. 2014).

In March, 2014, the Florida Supreme overturned laws imposing caps on damages in Florida wrongful death medical malpractice cases. The case was Estate of McCall v. United States. In ruling that these damages caps violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution, the Florida Supreme Court rejected earlier claims of the Florida legislature that Florida was “in the midst of a medical malpractice insurance crisis of unprecedented magnitude” and that “the increase in medical malpractice liability insurance premiums has resulted in physicians leaving Florida, retiring early from the practice of medicine, or refusing to perform high-risk procedures, thereby limiting the availability of health care.” In its opinion, the Florida Supreme Court stated: “the conclusions reached by the Florida Legislature as to the existence of a medical malpractice crisis are not fully supported by available data. Instead, the alleged interest of health care being unavailable is completely undermined by authoritative government reports.”

According to the Court, government data shows that the numbers of physicians in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas actually increased during the purported “crisis.” Here are some other statistics and facts cited by the Florida Supreme Court:

  • The average malpractice insurance premiums for doctors practicing internal medicine, general surgery and obstetrics/gynecology (considered “high-risk specialties”) increased by 48.2% between 1991 and 2002 in states with damages caps, but only 35.9% in states without caps. Hence caps on damages did seemingly nothing to stabilize or reduce doctors’ insurance rates.
  • Only 7.5% of medical malpractice payments of $1,000,000.00 or greater involved a jury trial.
  •  10.1% of medical malpractice settlements involving payments of $1,000,000.00 or greater were resolved without a legal action ever being filed.
  • The President of First Professionals Insurance Company testified during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting that a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages would achieve “virtually nothing” with regard to stabilizing medical malpractice insurance rates.

In tossing out Florida’s caps on wrongful death medical malpractice cases, the Florida Supreme Court cited authorities such as “The Medical Malpractice Myth” and highlighted that “the deputy director of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation testified that he had found no evidence to suggest that there had been a large increase in the number of frivolous lawsuits filed in Florida, nor was there any evidence of excessive jury verdicts in the prior three years.”

Even if there had been a medical malpractice crisis – which the Florida Supreme Court flatly rejected – caps on damages would do nothing to help. According to the Court, “the available evidence fails to establish a rational relationship between a cap on noneconomic damages and alleviation of the purported crisis.”

“[F]or those doctors who are leaving or have left Florida, there was no concrete evidence to demonstrate that high malpractice premiums were the cause of that departure.” – Florida Supreme Court.