From 2003 until recently, Florida limited the non-economic damages that victims in medical malpractice cases could win. Courts in multiple cases struck down this cap as unconstitutional, but the law is still on the books. The state legislature claimed that there was a medical malpractice insurance crisis in the state, but the Florida Supreme Court disagreed with this assertion in later cases.
First, the Florida Supreme Court in 2014 struck down the damages limit in medical malpractice cases that result in death. Then, in 2017, the Court in Kalitan said the damages cap is unconstitutional in medical malpractice cases in which the plaintiff survives.
Call the Montero Law Center at 954-767-6500, to set up your free consultation.
Why the Damages Limit is Unconstitutional
The Florida medical malpractice cap violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. It would be arbitrary and unjustified to apply the cap to cases with surviving victims but not when the injured person dies. Also, plaintiffs in car accidents and other personal injury cases do not have a limit on the amount of non-economic damages they can receive.
What Happens in Practice
Despite what the Florida Statutes still say, our courts do not apply a limit to the amount of non-economic damages a successful plaintiff can recover in a medical malpractice case. After the courts declare a law to be unconstitutional, they should not enforce that law in cases they hear.
Despite an outcry from defense lawyers and medical malpractice insurance carriers, no court has overturned the rulings that found the damages caps to be unconstitutional. Judges throughout the state of Florida are not applying the damages cap to cases they decide. The Florida legislature, however, has not removed the damages cap from the Florida Statutes.
Non-Economic Versus Economic Damages
The Florida Statutes only place a cap (albeit it, a limit the courts do not apply) to the amount of non-economic damages a plaintiff can get, not the economic damages.
Economic damages: financial losses for things like medical expenses and lost wages. You can easily measure these damages in dollars, and they have a financial impact on the victim.
Non-economic damages: things that do not directly take money out of the injured person’s pocket. Physical pain is unpleasant, but you do not have less money in your bank account at the end of a day in which you experienced pain than you did the day before. Non-economic damages can include:
- Pain and suffering such as physical pain, inconvenience, and emotional distress.
- Loss of enjoyment of life. For example, being unable to do things that used to bring you joy before the injury.
- Disfigurement like extensive scarring, dismemberment, and other undesired physical changes the injury caused.
Florida law did not and still does not limit the amount of economic damages a person can receive for medical malpractice. This position stands to reason, because unless there is a way to minimize the amount of economic harm one can inflict on another person through medical negligence, there is no justification for preventing the harmed person from recovering fully for his financial losses.
Call the Montero Law Center at 954-767-6500, to schedule a free consultation and review of your claim.
The Bottom Line
Does Florida have a medical malpractice cap? We have a law on the books in Florida that limits the amount of compensation that successful medical malpractice plaintiffs can receive for non-economic damages, but the Florida Supreme Court ruled that this law is unconstitutional. At this time, the Florida courts are ignoring the damages cap. Juries are allowed to award as much money as they feel is appropriate for non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.
If you call the Montero Law Center at 954-767-6500, we can set up your free consultation so we can analyze whether you have a claim for medical malpractice.