Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider such as a doctor, nurse, or nurse practitioner provides you with care that does not meet accepted standards of practice and causes death or injury. In most cases, there is some medical error involved. Examples include:
- Failure to diagnose a life-threatening condition or diagnosing it as something else and providing ineffective treatment
- Prescribing the wrong medication or administering an incorrect drug dosage
- Leaving medical instruments in a patient’s body after surgery
- Making surgical errors that result in the loss of use of a body part or parts
- Childbirth injuries that cause Erb’s Palsy, shoulder dystocia, brain damage, and other complications
Medical malpractice can place in and out of a hospital setting. No matter where it happens, though, it can change your life forever.
How Common is Medical Malpractice?
In its report, To Err is Human, the National Academies of Sciences estimated that up to 98,000 patients die in hospitals due to medical malpractice. Public Citizen, which also issued a report on the subject, suggested that deaths due to preventable medical errors exceeded those attributable to motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDs.
It appears that the number of medical malpractice claims being paid has dropped significantly. According to the True Cost of Healthcare website, in 2001 there were over 16,000 claims paid. In 2016, that number was less than 8,500. The average amount paid for a successful claim also dropped by approximately 23% during that time.
Other facts and statistics:
- The number of medical malpractice claims that resulted in payouts of less than $500,000 has dropped nearly 55% since 2001. The frequency of larger claims against healthcare providers has remained constant.
- In the Medscape Malpractice Report for 2017, 13% of the 4000 doctors surveyed admitted to being sued for malpractice while 48% were named as co-defendants.
- The Medscape report found that the top five medical specialties that involved the highest number of lawsuits were surgery, ob-gyn and women’s health, otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat specialists) urology, and orthopedics.
Medical Malpractice in Florida
Florida occupies a prominent position in many medical malpractice statistics compilations. A data table compiled by the True Cost of Healthcare website estimated that between 2012 and 2016, the state averaged 51.86 claims per one million residents, ranking it number 8 in the nation. In addition:
- The Florida population was 20.63 million in 2017.
- The average annual claim per 100 physicians was 1.5 in 2016, placing Florida at number nine on that list.
- In 2017, there were 82,939 doctors practicing in Florida.
- The average malpractice cost per capita was $11.97 in 2017.
Payments Made to Patients in Florida Medical Malpractice Claims
- 1,265 claims were paid for all medical providers in Florida in 2018, with a total of over 356 million dollars. Of that total, 865 claims (and an estimated 300 million dollars) involved MDs and DOs.
- After adjustment for inflation, the total payments made was significantly lower than in 2002, when the amount paid out for all providers was 605 million dollars.
Adverse Actions Reported for Florida Physicians Due to Medical Malpractice Claims
- In 2018, 420 complaints were filed against MDs and DOs.
- 41 physicians lost clinical privilege and panel membership.
- Only one physician lost professional society membership.
- 28 physicians were involved with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
- 15 physicians were excluded from HHS OIG.
Payments Made for Florida Medical Malpractice Claims
- In 2018, a total of 948 medical malpractice payment claims were made.
- 15 of the payments in 2018 were greater than $2,000,000.
- The highest range of payments was in the $250,000 to $499,000 range, with 302 payments made in this range.
- In 2003, payments in this same range numbered 324.
- 2003 saw the highest number and amount of medical malpractice payment claims from 2000-2018.
- 2003 and 2018 saw the highest number of over $2,000,000 claims paid, with 15 payments made each year.
- The total amount of money in millions of dollars paid out for medical malpractice claims in 2018 was 299.46 million.
- In 2002, the total amount of money paid out in millions of dollars was 386.93 million.
Medical malpractice claims are decreasing over time according to the website court statistics.
- The plaintiff win rate in medical malpractice trials is roughly 23%, much lower than for other personal injury cases where the win rate is 59%.
- 99% of medical malpractice cases include a jury trial, where only 93% of other personal injury trials include a jury trial.
- Medical malpractice trials have a mean length of 5 days, while other personal injury lawsuits have a mean length of 2 days.
- Medical malpractice jury awards are 17 times higher than the average awards in tort jury trials. These high amounts may be partially due to the fact that wrongful death was alleged in two-fifths of trials where the plaintiff won.
For years, Florida’s medical malpractice laws capped non-economic damages (such as mental anguish, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of companionship) at $500,000 ($1 million if the negligence caused death or a vegetative state) for claims against doctors and other healthcare providers and $750,000 against non-practitioner defendants. Then, in June 2017, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that these caps were unconstitutional because they arbitrarily reduced compensation for victims of the most drastic injuries.
Florida’s Three Strikes Law
Florida has a ‘three strikes’ rule that is supposed to automatically revoke the medical license of any doctor with three malpractice judgments. Critics have claimed that this law’s effectiveness is questionable because so many state doctors being sued for malpractice settle the case. A May 2019 investigation by ABC Action News found that around 120 physicians had at least three malpractice claims filed against them over the past decade but only two have lost their licenses.
These widely-publicized findings gave the impression that Florida did not take the matter of medical license revocation seriously. Perhaps the next person harmed by one of these doctors could be you or a loved one.
A Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Help
If you or someone you love has been seriously injured as the result of a surgical error, incorrect medication, misdiagnosis, or other act of medical malpractice, please contact the medical malpractice team at Kaire and Heffernan.
Although many negligent healthcare practitioners are never held accountable for their mistakes, we make it our mission to do so. We are experienced and aggressive advocates for our clients and will fight to make sure you receive all the benefits and compensation you are entitled to.