At least Florida’s malpractice damage caps have helped insurers Monday, December 21, 2009
A report by Pat Gillespie in the Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press looks at how Florida’s limits on damage awards to victims of medical negligence have affected southwest Florida since those limits went into effect in 2003.
Florida continues to have the highest malpractice insurance rates in the country, despite the restrictions on compensation to injured patients. Malpractice insurance premiums did go down each year from 2004 to 2008, but Dr. Larry Hobbs, president of the Lee County Medical Society, told Gillespie that’s not necessarily because of the damage-award caps:
Although overall insurance rates are down, part of the decrease is because high-risk insurance companies left the state. So, while primary care physicians — who typically have a lower premium — may be able to find coverage, neurosurgeons, for example, are having difficulty finding reasonable rates….[Hobbs said,] “When you eliminate all the high-risk individuals from the marketplace, it’s easy to lower rates.”
Another point made in the article is that, while the number of medical negligence lawsuits in Florida has gone down since damage-award caps were enacted, there’s no evidence that the reduction was caused by the caps. Gillespie talked to Sam Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Insurance Council:
“[Medical malpractice lawsuit] Frequency is down in states that enacted their tort reforms more than 30 years ago and claims are down in states that have never enacted any tort reform [emphasis added],” he [Miller] said. “We believe that attorneys have found the economics of pursuing medical professional liability cases to be challenging and fewer plaintiff’s lawyers will take these cases because of the high cost of prosecuting them.”
One other comment from the article, from Fort Myers attorney Craig Stevens, in discussing damage-award caps:
“Until it happens to you, you’re OK with it. It’s easy when it happens to someone else.”