Florida Doctors Previous Negligence Still Risking Future Negligence in Patients
When a Florida doctor’s negligence causes the loss of a loved one or leaves you with a life-changing injury, you file a medical malpractice lawsuit to collect damages and, hopefully, deter that physician from committing preventable errors in the future. Unfortunately, there’s a high likelihood that your second goal won’t be realized.
On May 20, 2019, ABC Action News revealed the result of an exclusive investigation into Florida doctors who continue to treat patients despite having paid multiple malpractice claims. These payouts, which exceeded $460 million, involved almost 1,400 patient deaths over the past decade.
A review of state insurance records uncovered cases like the following:
- A weight loss surgeon who has settled 16 malpractice claims since 2000, six of which involved the death of a patient. Total payout was $2.6 million.
- A back surgeon in Palm Beach Gardens who paid out $1.6 million in seven malpractice lawsuits, two of which arose from patient deaths.
- A cardiologist in Fort Myers who paid $1.4 million to settle three claims, two of which were due to a patient’s death.
The Three Strikes Rule
Florida has a ‘three strikes’ rule that was passed as a constitutional amendment in November 2004. It automatically revokes the medical license of any doctor with three malpractice judgments. However, the law’s effectiveness is hampered by the fact that the majority of the Florida doctors being sued for malpractice settle the case, either prior to a lawsuit being filed or prior to Trial.
With a settlement, the doctor neither admits nor denies the allegations against him/her and thus there is no judgment entered. This avoids a strike. The ABC investigators found that at least 120 doctors have accumulated three or more malpractice claims over the past decade but only two have lost their licenses under the three strikes law.
This Isn’t the First Investigation of Its Kind
In October 2017, the Sun-Sentinel carried out a similar investigation. It concluded that the system was slow to penalize doctors and quick to let them settle cases without accepting responsibility. At that time, Florida had a backlog of close to 400 unresolved cases against physicians involving patient mistreatment in situations ranging from regular checkups to emergencies.
Dr. Stephen Rosenberg, chairman of the Florida Board of Medicine, said that the “policing of medicine” was not the board’s responsibility. He explained that it relies on the Florida Department of Health to notify it about malpractice cases, but the DOH told the ABC investigators that it only learns about a malpractice claim after state insurance regulators close it. It’s a process that can take years, and in the meantime, the doctors involved continue to treat patients.
Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney Today
To learn whether your doctor has been taken to court or paid out a malpractice claim, you may search their name or license number at the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. If you or a loved one has been injured by a preventable medical error, contact a medical malpractice attorney at Kaire and Heffernan today. When you and your family suffer as a result of a doctor’s negligence, you deserve maximum compensation and we will use our qualifications and experience to pursue it for you.