Like many other U.S. states, Florida places a cap on medical negligence damages that can be awarded to a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case. This means that depending on the type of case, there is a maximum amount of financial compensation that a winning plaintiff can receive. Florida damages caps have a number of exceptions. Additionally, the court may choose to increase or eliminate caps on a case-by-case basis.
Florida medical negligence damage caps may be considered more complex than damage caps in other states. Damage caps are placed only on non-economic damages, as opposed to economic damages that represent measurable financial harm to the plaintiff. Furthermore, damage caps vary depending on each case’s defendant. Different damage caps apply to cases brought against medical practitioners versus non-practitioners.
Non-economic vs. Economic Damages
Florida damages caps are only in place for the non-economic damages that a plaintiff can receive from a lawsuit. These damages are often called hedonic damages. The term hedonic damages refers to a plaintiff’s subjective loss of enjoyment of life as a result of the injuries incurred from the incident in question. Conversely, economic damages include financial and economic losses that a plaintiff incurs as a result of the injuries sustained from the incident in question.
Hedonic damages that may earn non-economic damages may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Physical impairment
- Permanent injuries, such as scarring and disfigurement
- Emotional distress, such as anxiety and mental anguish
Florida does not place caps on economic damages, which include measurable economic losses such as:
- Past and future medical care costs
- Lost income from incapacitation
- Lost future earning capacity
Florida Damage Caps Involving Medical Practitioners
Generally, Florida medical negligence damage caps against practitioners is $500,000 per plaintiff. No medical practitioner defendant is permitted to be liable for an excess of $500,000 in total non-economic damages. The total recoverable non-economic damages from all suit plaintiffs against all suit practitioner defendants may not exceed $1,000,000 when exceptions are applied to a lawsuit. Exceptions that allow a $1,000,000 damage cap may include death, permanent vegetative state, severe non-economic harm, and catastrophic injury.
Medical Practitioner Definition
In Florida medical negligence cases, a medical practitioner is defined as a licensed physician. The term practitioner also refers to corporations, associations, partnerships, firms, and similar business entities under which practitioners practice. Additionally, a practitioner can be defined as an employee of a medical practitioner or a business entity that acts within the scope of his or her employment.
Florida Damage Caps Involving Non-practitioners
The standard Florida damage cap for medical negligence cases against non-practitioners is $750,000 per plaintiff. During case exceptions when damage caps may exceed $750,000, the total damage cap is $1,500,000. These exceptions also apply to death, permanent vegetative state, severe non-economic harm, or catastrophic injury.
Emergency Care and Medicaid Damage Caps
Damage caps are generally lower in cases that involve emergency services and care, as well as Medicaid recipients. In medical negligence cases against practitioners, the damage cap for emergency services and care is $150,000 per plaintiff. The total damage cap for all plaintiffs recovering from all practitioners is $300,000. The Florida medical negligence damage cap for Medicaid patients is $300,000 per plaintiff. A practitioner is not liable for damages exceeding $200,000.
In cases against non-practitioners, the medical negligence damage cap is $750,000 per plaintiff. In cases where exceptions may apply, all plaintiffs may not recover more than $1,500,000 from all non-practitioner medical negligence suit defendants.
Florida Damage Cap Controversy
Many argue that Florida medical negligence damage caps may be unconstitutional. Under federal and state constitutions, citizens have the right to a trial before a jury. During these trials, the jury is granted the ability to reach a verdict. Proponents of this the Florida damage cap argument allege that a citizen’s rights are violated when state laws interfere with a jury’s desired verdict.
“Florida Supreme Court to Rule on Medical Malpractice Cap.” Florida Justice Association. Florida Justice Association. Web. 20 Sep 2013. <https://www.floridajusticeassociation.org/index.cfm?pg=mccallcase2>.
“The 2013 Florida Statutes.” Online Sunshine. The Florida Legislature. Web. 20 Sep 2013. <http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0766/Sections/0766.118.html>.
Zeller, Ken. “AARP Challenges Malpractice Damage Caps in Florida.” AARP. AARP Foundation, 27 Feb 2012. Web. 20 Sep 2013. <http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/rights/info-02-2012/McCall-v-US.html>.