Florida statutes set forth specific limitations on the amount of noneconomic damages a claimant can get in a dental malpractice or medical malpractice case. The statute that provides this information is Fla. Stat. 766.118. This article provides an overview of the damage caps in Florida for medical malpractice and dental malpractice cases.
Important Definitions in the Florida Statute
According to the statute, "noneconomic damages" are those damages defined in section 766.202(8) that don’t have an easily-quantifiable monetary value and include things like pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of consortium.
A "practitioner" is a person or entity licensed or registered in Florida law and their employees acting within the scope of employment.
A "nonpractitioner" refers to defendants other than practitioners, including hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
Limitations on Noneconomic Damages
For personal injury or wrongful death cases arising from the negligence of practitioners, noneconomic damages are capped at $500,000 per claimant, regardless of the number of defendants. No practitioner shall be liable for more than $500,000 in noneconomic damages, regardless of the number of claimants.
In cases arising from a nonpractitioner’s negligence, Florida caps noneconomic damages at $750,000 per claimant, regardless of the number of defendants.
Emergency Services and Care
For cases involving practitioners providing emergency services and care, noneconomic damages are capped at $150,000 per claimant, with a total cap of $300,000 for all claimants from all practitioner defendants. For nonpractitioner defendants providing emergency services and care, noneconomic damages are capped at $750,000 per claimant, with a total cap of $1.5 million for all claimants from all nonpractitioner defendants.
Medicaid Recipient Cases
In cases involving practitioners providing medical services and care to Medicaid recipients, noneconomic damages are capped at $300,000 per claimant, with a cap of $200,000 for each practitioner defendant, unless the claimant can prove the practitioner acted in a wrongful manner.
Exceptions and Adjustments
In certain cases, the statute allows for higher caps on noneconomic damages. If the negligence resulted in a “permanent vegetative state” or wrongful death, the cap increases to $1 million for practitioner defendants and $1.5 million for nonpractitioner defendants. Additionally, if the trial court determines that a manifest injustice would occur without an increase in noneconomic damages, and the trier of fact determines that the defendant's negligence caused a catastrophic injury, the cap may be increased to $1 million for practitioner defendants and $1.5 million for nonpractitioner defendants.
Setoff and Sovereign Immunity
The statute specifies that any reduction in noneconomic damages due to these caps should occur after making reductions for comparative fault and before applying any setoffs. This section does not apply to actions governed by Florida's sovereign immunity law under section 768.28.
In summary, Florida's damages caps in medical malpractice cases vary depending on the type of defendant and the circumstances of the case. While these caps are intended to provide a balance between compensating injured patients and protecting healthcare providers from excessive liability, they remain a controversial aspect of medical malpractice law in Florida.
Damages Caps and Arbitration in Medical Malpractice Cases
Sometimes, the defense will make an offer of voluntary arbitration. What does this mean? Well, arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution method in medical malpractice cases, which provides the opportunity for a more informal and streamlined process as compared to litigation. In Florida, the Medical Malpractice Act governs arbitration and includes a provision on damages caps. Below, we’ll talk more about these damage caps and how they can affect the value of your case.
Damages Caps in Arbitration
When both parties agree to arbitrate, noneconomic damages are capped at $250,000 per incident, regardless of the number of claimants or defendants. This cap applies to all claims, including those involving practitioners, nonpractitioners, and providers of emergency services.
Damages Caps When a Party Refuses Arbitration
If a defendant offers arbitration and the claimant refuses, the noneconomic damages cap is limited to $350,000 in the ensuing litigation. This cap encourages parties to consider arbitration as a viable alternative to traditional litigation.
Do You Need to Speak to an Experienced Dental Malpractice or Medical Malpractice Attorney?
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of dental or medical malpractice, you should speak with a skilled and experienced Florida dental malpractice lawyer as soon as possible because you may be entitled to compensation. Please don’t hesitate to contact us on our website, or you can call our Orlando, Florida personal injury law firm today at (321) 352-7588 to schedule your free consultation by phone. We handle dental malpractice cases all over the State of Florida.
If you need a South Carolina dental malpractice lawyer, don’t hesitate to call us at (843) 638-6590. We have at least one lawyer licensed in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. So, if you’ve been injured in the Southeast, we have you covered.
For more information on personal injury cases in general, you can download our free personal injury guide: P.I. 101: Your Quick Guide to Personal Injury Claims.