By Vanessa Orr
In March of this year, an Iowa City family was awarded $97.5 million in a medical malpractice case, the largest such award in state history. This verdict, along with a new Florida House bill on the horizon, should send red flags to doctors in Florida, according to Julie Danna, senior vice president, National Health Care Practice, Danna-Gracey, a division risk strategies.
“Verdicts that used to be $1 million are now $10 million or more,” she explained. “What this means for doctors is that their premiums go up because most carriers are operating at a loss. For every dollar received, they do not bring in enough to cover every dollar spent. »
Given that the state of Florida scrapped tort reform in 2017, that means doctors are particularly at risk, as caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice actions litigated in Florida courts have been eliminated.
“Since 2017, we’ve completely lost tort reform in Florida, which a lot of doctors aren’t even aware of,” Danna said. “When we had tort reform, everything stabilized and premiums were significantly reduced. However, since 2017, when it was decided that capping pain and suffering cases was unconstitutional, these rates have increased despite Florida already having one of the highest in the country for costs of pain and suffering. medical malpractice insurance.
Danna notes that while plaintiffs’ lawyers used to pursue more lawsuits, which caused a frequency problem, the courts now face a seriousness problem, with lawyers handling fewer cases, which will lead to awards. much higher.
An additional concern for doctors is House Bill 6011, which will allow parents of adult children to recover damages for mental pain and suffering in a medical negligence suit. The bill will come into force on July 1, 2022.
“Before, when a child died as a result of a loss, the immediate family was allowed to seek payment for mental pain and suffering,” Danna explained. “This new law allows parents of adult children who do not have a spouse or children to also request payment of these non-economic damages.
“This will create even more possibilities for lawsuits; lawyers looking for that money are going to wreak havoc in Florida,” she added.
Court cases are also influenced by the changing demographics of jurors, which now include millennials.
“Back then, we had a jury of our peers, but now these young millennials, who are very compassionate, tend to be more willing to award plaintiffs money,” Danna said. “In meetings with carriers, we are now discussing ways to prepare to work with the millennial mindset versus a jury of our peers. You have to consider how this age group thinks when sitting on a jury and how to go to court with the younger generation making decisions.
While many Florida doctors opted to keep policy limits low at $250,000/$750,000, thinking attorneys wouldn’t sue them if there wasn’t so much reward, out-of-court claims settling averaging $400,000, that still leaves them at risk.
“A lot of doctors share their $250,000 limits with their allied corporations and professionals, which makes them even more vulnerable,” Danna said. “I strongly suggest they consider a separate policy for the company and place allies under it. Doctors need a pure policy for themselves, where they don’t share their limits.
Danna advises physicians to adhere to an overall limit of $500,000 per claim / $1.5 million per year to meet the national threshold. “We see a lot of surgical groups making $1m/$3m,” she added.
For more information on policy boundaries, contact Julie Danna at firstname.lastname@example.org (850) 530-3924 or visit www.dannagracey.com.