A recent study of Medical Malpractice data conducted in California since its enactment of legislation capping awards on “non-economic” damages has shown that a lot of individuals can no longer afford access to the courts. Recently, a doctor found it impossible to find a lawyer to represent him after his mother had died from a medical error despite an exhaustive search of almost two dozen local lawyers.
Florida is experiencing the exact same problem. In Florida, we have very similar caps limiting a person’s recovery for pain and suffering type damages which often times can make up the bulk of the award on a catastrophic injury or death case. By capping the awards, attorneys faced with potentially six figure costs to pursue these matters have to not only be much more selective but they must also turn down legitimate cases that for one factor or another don’t generate enough potential “economic” damages like medical bills and future lost wages to justify the humongous expense. For example, in cases where a person who is retired passes away or is seriously injured by a physician’s malpractice, there are no future lost wages which then makes the pursuit of justice, economically infeasible.
Lawyers who pursue justice in medical malpractice cases in general, do want to help people but most can’t afford to do it at a loss nor should they have to. Besides regular business overhead expenses, lawyers who pursue these cases must pay similar competent doctors to be expert witnesses to examine the potential case, provide guidance along the way and testify in court. These fees can range between $500-$1,000 per hour and it wouldn’t be unheard of to have $50,000 in expert witness fees on any particular medical malpractice case. Complex matters with multiple defendants, like a few doctors who were involved in a patient’s care plus say a hospital could easily cause that figure to triple or quadruple.
Yet, while litigation volume and costs for insurance companies are being cut in half, Doctors still pay extremely high premiums and insurance company profits continue to soar. Medical Malpractice insurance companies used to make @ $.37 per dollar collected in premiums. Because of a severe drop of almost 48% of the number of cases brought to court, insurance companies now have the benefit of retaining $.61 per dollar collected as profit.
The pendulum has swung way too far the other way now….
For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care.