Many states have a medical malpractice damage cap, which places a limit on the damages available to a medical malpractice plaintiff who wins a lawsuit against a health care professional.
Florida’s Medical Malpractice Damage Caps
In Florida, as with most other states, the medical malpractice damage cap applies only to non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include things like pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of companionship, scarring, disfigurement, mental anguish and anxiety. Because these losses cannot be quantified by a monetary value, there is a cap on how much one can recover for them.
In Florida the cap for non-economic damages is $500,000 per plaintiff in lawsuits against medical practitioners and $750,000 per plaintiff for lawsuits against non-practitioners. In cases where several people are involved, non-economic damages cannot exceed $1 million from all practitioners and $1.5 million from all non-practitioners.
For economic damages, awarded for things such as medical expenses and loss of income, there is no damage cap. This means there is essentially no limit on the amount of compensation one can receive for past and future economically measurable expenses that result from the malpractice.
Who Is Considered a Medical Practitioner?
Florida’s medical malpractice damage caps are more complicated than those of other states because they differ depending on whether the defendant is a medical practitioner or not. Medical practitioner means a licensed health care provider, such as a physician, physician’s assistant, medical assistant, chiropractor, optometrist, podiatrist, midwife, dentist, dental hygienist, physical therapist or a registered nurse.
By definition, a practitioner can also be any employee of practitioner or business entity acting within his or her scope of employment.
Exceptions to damage caps may apply when a court sees a valid reason.
In March 2014, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the $1 million medical malpractice cap was not enough in a case of wrongful death. The court ruled the damage cap unconstitutional, eliminating the cap on non-economic damages that can be recovered for non-economic loss in wrongful death cases.