Damage Caps Approved in Tort Reform Legislation
House Resolution 1215 First Step to Major Healthcare Reforms
In a vote of 218 to 210, the U.S. House of Representatives ruled in favor of House Resolution 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act. This new legislation will, among other details, create a cap of $250,000 for any noneconomic damages in all medical liability lawsuits. Previously, the ongoing rise of “frivolous” lawsuits forced medical professionals and Florida medical malpractice insurance experts to include unnecessary tests and exams for patients out of fear of uncommon malpractice errors. The widely anticipated reform changes are expected to significantly impact the burdensomely heavy costs of health care, improve patient and physician relationships, and reduce the strain of medical malpractice insurance in Florida and across the country.
Changes to Expect:
• “Speedy Resolution of Claims”
Plaintiffs are now subject to a 3-year statute of limitations starting at the date of the injury or at the completion of treatment. A 1-year statute of limitations is issued following the date of discovery. With less time passing by before lawsuits are filed, both defendants and plaintiffs will be more readily able to collect evidence and witnesses before an unreasonable time has passed. Exceptions are included for cases involving minors.
• “Fair Share Rule”
Any judgment of liability involving multiple parties will be followed by a second judgment to ascertain each party’s exact percentage of responsibility. No one party will be responsible for paying the liability of another party’s fault, only the percentage of which they are specifically held liable. A fair sharing of liability will greatly reduce the risk and personal cost of medical malpractice insurance in Florida.
•”Maximizing Patient Recovery”
Limits have been set for the allowable percentage of the contingency fees that lawyers can charge for malpractice lawsuits. Formerly, much of the payments received from Florida medical malpractice insurance went disproportionately to the attorneys involved in the lawsuits and very little to the patients themselves. Now, to guarantee fair recovery, lawyers are limited to 40 percent of the first $50,000 recovered, 33 percent of the next $50,000, 25 percent of the next $500,000, and 15 percent of any additional recovery.
• “Product Liability for Healthcare Providers”
In order to spare medical professionals from the additional risk of liability beyond their control and the further cost of malpractice insurance in Florida, healthcare providers can no longer be included in product liability lawsuits for dispensing or prescribing any product approved by the Food and Drug Administrations. Such lawsuits will now specifically only involve the manufacturers, dispensers, or sellers of defective products.
What Comes Next for Florida Medical Malpractice Insurance?
The bill also includes directions for periodic payments of recoveries over $50,000 and details of state flexibility in regards to federal law. A companion bill is expected in near future to further promote the wellness of physician and patient relationships. In eliminating the substantial financial burdens of providing health care and establishing a safe harbor for medical professionals and Florida medical malpractice insurance, tort reform is expected to improve the American healthcare in many facets.