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Will Florida limit medical malpractice awards?

Medical malpractice injuries can leave people with permanent and life-altering injuries. Recovering damages is often the only way for malpractice victims to maintain a good quality of life. Can state governments really limit the amount of damages a claimant may receive? Well, Florida wouldn’t be the first state to do so.

Florida lawmakers are looking to push legislation to limit the amount of damages claimants in medical malpractice lawsuits can recover. This isn’t the first attempt, either. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled against attempts in 1986, 2003, 2014 and 2017 to limit medical malpractice awards.

in 2017,the court ruled by a one-vote margin against legislation to limit possible damages, calling the reduction of awards for claimants “arbitrary” in their ruling. Lawmakers are attempting again now that the governor has appointed three new nominees to the court. The hope is that the new court will support the reform more than previous iterations of the bench.

Proponents of the proposed law feel that limiting malpractice case awards to $1 million would reduce frivolous lawsuits and in turn, ease congestion on the court system. Supporters have also mentioned concern over rising insurance premiums for businesses due to medical malpractice claims.

Conversely, opponents have expressed concern for the long-term quality of life for victims. One representative said that she couldn’t imagine putting a value on a life. A younger person with a permanent disability from a medical injury may need more than $1 million to cover future damages due to their injury.

A part of a national conversation

Capping medical malpractices isn’t a new idea or even unique to Florida. Six states have capped economic and non-economic damages and 26 have limited just non-economic damages, as of 2017. Non-economic damages include disabilities, fertility problems and trauma caused by medical malpractice.

Florida is one of six states, so far, to rule caps on damages unconstitutional. Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire and Washington comprise the other five. Oklahoma, Oregon and Wisconsin had previously ruled damages caps unconstitutionally but eventually reversed those decisions.

Just over half of all states have some cap on medical malpractice awards. Other states have left wrongful death claim damages uncapped. It will be interesting to see where Florida lands on the issue. There are many possible resolutions at this point.