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Florida's cap on medical malpractice awards challenged

Eight years ago, Florida lawmakers changed the state's medical malpractice laws. The change limited the amount of compensation that a medical malpractice victim could be awarded in a lawsuit.

Now there are several groups who are questioning whether the law establishing a cap on awards should be reversed.

This most recent outrage was in response to the death of a young woman in 2006. She was suffering from two different medical conditions and was treated by military physicians. After her death, her family decided to sue the federal government claiming medical malpractice on the part of the military doctors.

The family won a settlement. But the amount was less than the multi-million dollar award that the court decided upon. Instead, because of the Florida law that capped damages at $1 million, the judge reduced the award. This young woman's family is not the only family receiving less compensation than they were originally awarded.

This month, several groups have challenged the $1 million cap on pain-and-suffering damages in Florida. However, they have been met by opposition. Those who believe that the cap should remain a law argue that it keeps the costs of medical malpractice insurance down for medical professionals.

But those who want the cap removed, like the young woman's family, believe that the cap could hurt families of victims who were seriously harmed or killed by a negligent medical professional. For example, the financial implications would affect victims and their families.

Should there be a cap on damages a victim can receive? Only in time will it become clear how Florida legislators will respond to this debate.

Source: WCTV: "Med Mal Fight Goes On, Cap Question to State Supremes," Jim Saunders, Aug. 30, 2011.

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