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Florida's fictional medical malpractice crisis

For years insurance companies and their allies in the state legislature have been spreading a fiction that Florida is in a medical malpractice lawsuit crisis. According to the insurance companies, doctors have been fleeing the state and those who remain have been forced to practice "defensive medicine" and avoid performing many procedures, all because of skyrocketing malpractice lawsuits. The insurers' PR strategy has been very successful, and the fable of a medical profession beset by frivolous litigation has become widely accepted. But, as data from the National Practitioner Data Bank shows, it's a myth.

Some researchers took the NPDB data regarding malpractice lawsuits by state and calculated the number of lawsuits per 100,000 population in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. How did Florida come out? Some may be surprised by the answer -- Florida ranked 40th of the 51 jurisdictions surveyed. The state had only 16.2 malpractice lawsuits per 100,000 people in the state in 2015. The state with the most malpractice lawsuits per capita, Louisiana, had 44.1 per 100,000 -- still a relatively small number, but more than two and a half times the number in Florida.

Unfortunately, the manufactured crisis led to Florida's adoption of some misguided caps on non-economic damages in malpractice suits. This means that for elements of damage such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, scarring and disfigurement, there are limits on the amount the patient can recover -- no matter how devastating their injuries. Those limits are $500,000 in suits against medical practitioners and $750,000 in suits against non-practitioners.

The people hurt most by Florida's medical malpractice damage caps are by necessity those whose damages would otherwise have exceeded the caps -- in other words, those who have suffered the most tragic and shocking injuries due to medical negligence. And, the only parties who benefit are the insurance companies.

Source: research.zippia.com, "This Interactive Map Shows Which States Sue Doctors the Most," Chris Kolmar, accessed Sept. 3, 2015

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