West Palm Beach injury lawyers have been watching closely the progression of HB17, a bill that would limit the amount of damages for losses like pain and suffering that can’t be easily quantified. The $1 million damage cap would affect non-economic damages in personal injury cases. Proponents claim it’s necessary to improve insurer and large corporation stability, “balance out” their legal risk resulting from high litigation costs and lower what we all pay for insurance and other products/services.
The Florida House Civil Justice Committee approved the cuts, and the bill is advancing.
Here’s the reality about legislative actions like this (also known as “tort reform“): It’s a “get-out-of-jail” free card for insurers and big business. Where they have been successful, it is found companies are better-shielded from litigation risks and their profits are higher. It very often does not result in savings for the public/consumers. Furthermore, it’s been proven that the people most affected by a policy like this are the individuals hurt most severely. Finally, it’s likely no coincidence the most ardent advocates of this measure receive an awful lot of campaign contributions from lobbyists for these industries.
The Case of McCall v. State Showed Damage Caps Don’t Work
The most recent and prominent Florida case that firmly established this was Estate of McCall v. U.S., wherein plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the state’s $1 million wrongful death medical malpractice non-economic damage cap. In striking down the law, the Florida Supreme Court examined the reasoning legislators had when they passed it. It didn’t pass muster.
Lawmakers had railed that Florida was in the midst of a medical malpractice “crisis” at the time, with huge damage awards hiking up medical malpractice insurance rates at such burdensome levels that doctors were fleeing the state en mass. Capping the “outrageous” damages collected by survivors of people who died as a result of physicians who failed to abide the standard expected of their profession would lower doctors’ insurance rates would ensure doctors would stay.
Justices on the state’s high court found, “the statutory cap on wrongful death non-economic damages does not bear a rational relationship to the stated purpose that the cap is purported to address.”
First, the court determined there was no evidence to support the assertion that physicians were leaving the state at any rate greater than normal or that the reason any were leaving had to do with Florida medical malpractice insurance rates.
What DID happen:
- Insurance companies got a whole lot richer.
- Doctors did not pay any less in premiums (meaning the benefit reached by insurers was not even passed on to the doctors).
- Those who suffered the most painful of all losses were limited in how much accountability they were able to secure for those losses.
Despite an HB17 advocate asserted as that a $1 million damage cap on Florida personal injury lawsuit damages would “put a cap on a very small sliver of available damages.” The reality is non-economic damages for losses like pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of society/companionship are often some of the highest damages awarded. They doesn’t mean they are easy to obtain.
As West Palm Beach injury lawyers at Halberg & Fogg can explain, medical malpractice damages in general are tough to secure, and there are already high standards of vetting for plaintiffs of these cases.
Furthermore, these damages are often awarded because jurors recognize that while you can’t put a price on something like losing the ability to walk or suffering brain damage as a result of someone else’s negligence. Capping damages strips courts of the ability to exercise discretion. It also too often results in unjust outcomes that profit insurers, while leaving those most suffering out in the cold.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Proposed new laws could limit who you can sue and how much you can get, March 1, 2019, Miami Herald
More Blog Entries:
Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney Ryan Fogg Wins $3.6M for Plaintiff in Wrongful Death Lawsuit, Feb. 27, 2019, West Palm Beach Personal Injury Attorney Blog