Florida medical malpractice law basics and a gap

Florida residents who expect that they have the right to seek compensation after a medical error should understand the law.

Every state has unique laws governing medical errors. Most states, like Florida, outline timelines in which claims must be initiated and identify limits or the lack thereof on damages that may be awarded. It is important for Florida residents to have an understanding of the state's approach to medical errors in case they are ever personally involved in such situations.

What is the statute of limitations in Florida?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Floridians are given up to 24 months from the date than an injury occurred to file a claim. If a person did not know about an injury immediately, that 24-month period starts from the date on which the injury is first learned about. This is often referred to as a discovery rule.

However, claims initiated under the discovery rule should be made within 48 years of the injury date unless there were illegal attempts to hide the action which prevented a person from knowing about it. In these cases, a person may have up to seven years to initiate legal action.

What are the limits on financial non-economic damages?

The Florida Statutes explains that the state does cap the amount of money plaintiffs may receive in medical malpractice cases for non-economic damages. There are multiple caps based upon different scenarios. Economic damages are awarded to reimburse patients for actual medical expenses. Non-economic damages are awarded in addition to those amounts.

Claims against practitioners involving emergent care are limited to $150,000 per person or a maximum of $300,000 regardless of the number of claimants involved. For non-emergent care, the limit increases to $500,000 or to $1 million if the patient dies or is left in a vegetative state.

Claims against non-practitioners are limited to $750,000 in non-economic damages but may increase to $1.5 million if death or a vegetative states results.

Some discretion is given to courts to increase awards to the death or vegetative state levels even if neither of those results. This may happen if the level of negligence is deemed exceptional or awarding the standard limit would cause another injustice.

Claims involving a practitioner and a Medicaid patient are limited to $300,000 per person but the practitioner would only be liable for up to $200,000.

Who can file a suit when death results?

The Florida Statutes notes that the Florida Wrongful Death Act permits lawsuits to be filed on behalf of minor children, parents or spouses of deceased persons.

However, 10News reports that there is a sad caveat to this law. If a person is over the age of 25, unmarried and sans dependents, a parent is unable to pursue legal action. The mother of a 33-year-old man who died after failing to receive proper treatment at a North Pinellas hospital is pushing to have this law changed.

What should people do when they believe an error has occurred?

Taking action promptly in the face of a potential medical error is important for both a person's health and the ability to seek compensation. Talking to an attorney is always recommended in these cases to avoid missing the statute of limitation time periods.