Many people have the incorrect idea that when a victim files a personal injury lawsuit he or she can get “lucky” and collect millions of dollars in damages for very slight injuries. The fact is that many states place a cap or limit on the damages that can be collected in all types of personal injury cases, making it very unlikely that a victim will be able to recover unlimited compensation.
What Are Florida Damage Cap Statutes?
Damage cap statutes are laws that set a limit on compensation for certain types of damages. For example, Florida law states that punitive damages are usually limited to three times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000, whichever is greater.
However, Florida does not have damage cap laws on most types of non-economic damages from personal injury cases. Victims of slip-and-fall accidents, car crashes, defective products and other types of personal injury may receive nearly unlimited compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish and other types of non-economic compensation. Of course, simply claiming these injuries is no guarantee that the victim will be awarded this type of payment. Many juries and judges award non-economic damages as a multiple of the economic costs in the case, such as medical bills and lost wages.
Medical Malpractice and Damage Caps
One type of case in Florida that is very different from other personal injury is medical malpractice. This type of lawsuit is one of the few affected by Florida damage caps. There are complex laws regarding how much a victim can collect for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages in a malpractice case. A personal injury attorney can evaluate a medical injury case and determine the amount of damages available to the plaintiff as well as limits on possible compensation.
Medical malpractice lawsuits that target medical professionals such as doctors, nurses and hospital staff are limited to $500,000 in non-economic damages, although there is no limit to the compensatory damages that may be paid to the victim. Compensatory damages, unlike non-economic damages, include the cost of medical care, lost wages, future lost income and other measurable costs.
Lawsuits against non-practitioners are limited to $750,000 in non-economic damages. In addition, there is a $1 million limit on non-economic damages collected from all defendants overall in the case. There is also a $1 million cap on damages from medical malpractice resulting in the death of the patient. The limit for emergency service personnel and care is $150,000 per plaintiff and $300,000 total.
Additionally, Medicaid recipients have a different cap than privately insured patients; these victims are limited to $300,000 per plaintiff.
There have been some challenges to Florida’s law governing medical malpractice damage caps. For example, in 2014 the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff in a challenge to the wrongful-death cap.
If you believe you have suffered injuries in a medical malpractice case, it is important to speak to a personal injury attorney immediately. Not only is there a limit or cap to the non-economic damages available in a case but there is also a limit on the time to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Act quickly to protect your rights and ensure that you are able to collect the most compensation possible in your medical malpractice case.