There are many great things about living in South Florida -- but as my colleagues at the personal injury bar can tell you, our medical malpractice laws are not one of them. Florida state law allows doctors to go without medical malpractice insurance, as long as they post a sign saying they don’t have it and promise to pay up to $250,000 per lawsuit. Thanks to that law, the Sun-Sentinel recently reported, South Florida is the national capital for uninsured doctors. Nearly 25% of the doctors in Broward County and more than a third in Miami-Dade are uninsured, according to the article.
That may not sound like a problem at first. After all, many people do their jobs without insurance. But then again, a mistake at those people’s jobs doesn’t usually carry the high stakes of a serious medical mistake, which can cause deaths or serious, permanent disabilities. A medical malpractice lawsuit is supposed to help victims of this sort of serious mistake, by publicizing the doctor’s errors and winning them the money they need to treat the problem and compensate them for the catastrophic changes in their lives. Without insurance, most doctors can’t afford to pay medical malpractice judgments, which are frequently well over the $250,000 maximum required by the no-insurance law. Cases of birth injuries, in which a baby or mother is harmed by mistakes during a birth, often go into the millions.
As the Sun-Sentinel reported separately, this astounding and irresponsible trend toward no malpractice insurance ultimately harms the victims of medical malpractice twice. Seriously injured folks who’d have a strong case in any other state can’t win full compensation from an uninsured Florida doctor, which means the money they stand to win is often less than the cost of pursuing a lawsuit in the first place. And that means they often can’t find a medical malpractice attorney to take their cases for little or no payment. Thanks to a 2006 law, they can’t even collect from co-defendants like clinics or hospitals.
And because of the no-insurance rule, it’s not easy for patients to tell the difference between a doctor who chooses to go without insurance and one who can’t get it because of a history of malpractice. Florida could be turning itself into a haven for the worst sort of doctor. Under these circumstances, it’s hard to see how these Florida medical malpractice laws are designed to protect the public’s interests.
The Sun-Sentinel set up a tool to help you check your own doctor’s insurance status and malpractice history (Broward and Palm Beach Counties only), but for some patients, it’s already too late. If your family has been harmed by a bad doctor in South Florida, contact Cohn, Smith & Cohn for a free evaluation of your case.