June 9, 2017

    How many times have you heard it? Lawsuits are driving doctors out of business, or out of the state, or forcing them to retire. Medical malpractice premiums are through the roof. Doctors get sued all the time.

    Actually, this is all nonsense, lies told by the insurance industry too, first and foremost, justify high malpractice insurance premiums, and second, to influence the general public who will eventually sit on juries.

    Legislatures, particularly conservative legislatures, love the concept of limiting lawsuits. They want to protect manufacturers who sell products which injure us, doctors who cripple and kill us, businesses who invited us into stores that are unsafe. Their favorite method in terms of medical malpractice is to put a cap on the amount of money an injured person can be awarded in a malpractice lawsuit. The perversity of this is that a person with a small injury caused by a doctor’s negligence can be compensated in full, but a person with the tragic injury, a doctor taking off the wrong leg, operating on the wrong eye, prescribing the wrong medicine, killing someone, is limited how much they can recover, typically $250,000.

    Study after study shows that caps on medical malpractice verdicts do nothing to bring down medical malpractice premiums, or medical expenses in general. I have an article that shows after Texas put in place a $250,000, a medical malpractice insurance company still asked for a 19% increase in premiums. In the filings with the insurance commissioner, they said the caps reduced premiums by 1%. Imagine, your bill goes from $100 to $99, in exchange for which you give up your right to sue for major life changing injuries.

    Now, In a 4-to-3 ruling, the Florida Supreme Court struck down a cap, calling it unconstitutional, and noting that there is no evidence that there is a medical malpractice insurance crises. Keep in mind that this case was argued on both sides, with the insurance industry trying mightily to justify the cap, yet completely unable to show any evidence of a continuing malpractice insurance crises. The pertinent language is as follows:

    In its ruling, the Court wrote:

    The caps on noneconomic damages in sections 766.118(2) and (3) arbitrarily reduce damage awards for plaintiffs who suffer the most drastic injuries. We further conclude that because there is no evidence of a continuing medical malpractice insurance crisis justifying the arbitrary and invidious discrimination between medical malpractice victims, there is no rational relationship between the personal injury noneconomic damage caps in section 766.118 and alleviating this purported crisis. Therefore, we hold that the caps on personal injury noneconomic damages provided in section 766.118 violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution.

    Click here to review the ruling in full from the Florida Supreme Court website.

    So the next time someone tells you that lawyers and lawsuits are driving the high cost of medical insurance and medical care, tell them to read what the Florida Supreme Court says. Tell them they have swallowed the lies of the insurance companies whose only goal is to increase their profits. Ask them if their Doctor took off their left leg when he should’ve taken off their right leg, if they want to be limited in how much they can sue the doctor for.

    I think we all know the answer to that.

    Mr. Chase has practiced Personal Injury Law in Mercer County since 1979, and handles all types of Person Injury cases, including automobile accidents, slip and falls, motorcycle crashes, and medical malpractice cases. Initial consultation is always free