Florida lawmakers are eager to lure people from around the country to this state for a host of medical procedures. The state legislature recently authorized a $2.5 million grant, administered by the state’s official tourism and marketing organization, Visit Florida, to tout this as a place to obtain a host of medical treatments.
The money has been earmarked for two goals: One to promote Florida as a medical tourism destination, and another to promote medical meetings and training. This is added to the $5 million in state funding the agency received for this purpose during the previous legislative session. Each of these grants are being matched by private dollars.
Palm Beach County had recently announced its aim to attract 6.6 million visitors in 2015 – 600,000 more than last year. However, it’s unclear how many of those will be specifically medical-sector tourists.
Our West Palm Beach medical malpractice lawyers recognize that while Florida has many well-qualified medical providers who can offer valuable services, we fear this push may give rise to an increasing demand that could attract less-than-stellar providers. Their services may be cheaper, but the quality could be lacking.
These entities are going to find it attractive that Florida still largely recognizes damage caps in medical malpractice cases, whereas nearby states like Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia do not. The Georgia Supreme Court overturned the state’s $350,000 cap on non-economic damages in 2010, finding it unconstitutional.
Earlier this year, the Florida Supreme Court also ruled medical malpractice caps are unconstitutional – but only as they pertain to wrongful death cases. The previous cap there was $1 million. The state still caps non-economic damages in other cases at $500,000 per plaintiff and $1 million per claim. For negligence arising out of emergency services and care, the maximum amount of recovery is $150,000 per plaintiff and $300,00 per claim. Practitioners accused of providing negligent care to Medicaid recipients may be liable for no more than $200,000 total. As it relates to non-practitioners (i.e., hospitals, clinics, corporations, partnerships, etc.), non-economic damages are capped at $750,000 per plaintiff against all non-practitioner defendants, while the total from all plaintiffs (where there is more than one) may not exceed $1.5 million.
This might sound like a lot, but if you or a loved one has suffered a catastrophic injury, it may be barely enough to cover expenses, particularly if the injury results in lifelong disability.
From a legal jurisdictional standpoint, medical injuries occurring in Florida by a Florida health care provider will most likely need to be litigated in Florida, and abide by Florida law – regardless of where plaintiff resides.
So the point is while Florida might seem an attractive option to many health care providers who face limited liability if they make an error, it may not be in the best interest of the patient to seek treatment here if their own state does not have these kinds of damage caps in place. Whatever savings they enjoy on the initial procedure will not make up for the expenses incurred should a medical error result in serious injury.
This is not to say so much that we discourage medical tourism in Florida. Rather, we would encourage legislators to give equal consideration to rolling back the damage caps, thereby protecting the patients they are hoping will fuel this growing industry.
If you have been injured by medical malpractice in Florida, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Florida to Promote Medical Tourism, Nov. 11, 2014, CBS Miami
More Blog Entries:
Millsap v. Williams – Informed Consent in Med-Mal Lawsuits, Nov. 25, 2014, West Palm Beach Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog