The Truth (and Lies) About Medical Malpractice Litigation – Florida Perspective

Through years of misrepresentations, the insurance and medical industries have convinced the general public that every medical malpractice jury verdict favors the patient regardless of the merits of any particular case. Like a non-stop chant – think Florida State University football games – they scream of a crisis involving frivilous claims and fleeing doctors (but refuse to make the same claims under oath). The statistics tell a much different story.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, a study of almost 11,000 medical malpractice trials between 1985 and 1999 found that provider-defendants won approximately 81 percent of the time. A Bureau of Justice Statistics study of medical malpractice cases tried in large counties across the United States found that defendants won approximately 73 percent of the time. By contrast, the study reports that plaintiffs won 52 percent of all tort trials (not just medical malpractice trials) in its sample that took place in 2001.

Despite the availability of these enlightening numbers, the false misrepresentations have not abated. Sadly, the legislators of many states, Florida included, have accepted, purposely or not, the misrepresentations like a grouper swallowing its prey. The result has been the enactment of laws making it prohibitive to pursue a claim for negligence against medical providers.

In Florida, pre-suit requirements can exact the expenditure of upwards of $10,000 before a lawsuit can be instituted, versus a more reasonable $400 filling fee to initiate a claim against a non-medical provider. In addition, the Florida Legislature, aided and abetted by Governor Jeb Bush, placed arbitrary damage caps on awards against medical providers. (See this blog.) Claims against non-medical providers do not have similar arbitrary damage caps.

Because of these daunting hurdles, attorneys handling medical malpractice claims must be extremely careful with case selection. Many factors must be considered, including the nature and extent of damages and whether the negligent medical providers have the financial means to pay a court judgment. (For example, Florida does not require individual medical providers to maintain malpractice insurance. This includes surgeons who perform major surgeries that run the risk of catastrophic consequences if performed improperly. Many of the providers who practice without insurance have taken legal steps to protect their assets from judgment creditors.)

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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.