New research into medical malpractice claims paid in 2006 has revealed that Florida’s average payout for such claims was lower than the national average. The study has sparked renewed debate about the tort reform that is currently underway to change malpractice laws in Florida.
Research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation uncovered that Florida’s average claim payout for medical malpractice cases was $241,800 in 2006. The national average was much higher, at $308,600. Illinois had the highest claim payout, with an average payout of $629,100. However, 32 other states besides Illinois had higher payouts than Florida. The study found that there were 822 paid medical malpractice claims in the state of Florida last year. Insurance companies paid a total of $198.7 million in these claims. This averages out to 14.7 medical malpractice claims paid for every one thousand doctors in Florida. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Michigan had the lowest payout for medical malpractice suits. That state had 389 medical malpractice claims paid last year, with an average payout of $132,380.
What the findings by the Kaiser Family Foundation actually mean is a matter of some debate. Some Florida attorneys suggest that the findings stem from the $500,000 cap on non-economic damages. Florida approved the cap in 2003, which some Florida attorney claim reduces the rights of patients by creating smaller settlements. Some Florida lawyers suggest that the cap means that more medical malpractice cases go to court in cases where a patient suffers personal injury or death. Companies are confident that there will not be a huge settlement, even in a court case.
Other experts counter that Florida cannot be compared to other states because while most of the country’s doctors carry $1 million policies, most physicians in Florida only carry a $250,000 policy. According to at least one insurer, only 17% of Florida’s physicians have $1 million policies, possibly because malpractice insurance is more expensive in Florida. Part of the reason for that, according to insurers, is that claims are paid more often in the state of Florida, with 49% of closed Florida claims in 2006 leading to a payout. This is in contrast to the national average, where only 26% of claims closed in 2006 resulted in payouts.
Although experts cannot agree on the findings, most professionals agree that attorneys make a significant difference in the outcome of medical malpractice cases. In cases where negligence has caused personal injury or wrongful death to a patient, the patient or their surviving family can get better assistance by seeking out a qualified Florida attorney. A good, experienced Florida lawyer can uncover the facts of the case and can safeguard the patient’s best interests.