We have all heard the myths over the years about how medical negligence lawsuits have caused doctors to leave their practices, lawyers bring meritless lawsuits against doctors, and insurance premiums are rising for doctors. None of these myths, which are perpetuated by insurance companies and lawmakers who accept money from those insurance companies, are true. Rather, each of them is far from the truth.
First, according to the 2017 Physician Workforce Annual Report, the number of doctors has surged in Florida from 43,406 in 2012 to 45,995 in 2017. According to testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions, Hearing on “Medical Liability”: New Ideas For Making the System Work Better for Patients,” June 22, 2006, Professor Neil Vidmar of Duke Law School stated, “There is a widespread belief that injured patients sue at the drop of a hat…The opposite appears to be true.” Finally, as reported in Forbes Magazine, “Why Doctor Malpractice Premiums Stopped Rising,” October 10, 2018, Bruce Japsen reported that: “Medical malpractice insurance premiums have been decreasing or flat for more than a decade.”
In Florida, it is particularly difficult to bring a medical malpractice claim. The law does not allow some doctors to be sued, even if they wrongfully commit malpractice causing death. As reported on April 19, 2019, by WPTV, Trevor Snyder’s family discovered that their 32-year-old son was hospitalized in North Florida for a motorcycle crash that resulted in him requiring a broken leg surgery. The surgery kept getting delayed, and the hospital eventually reported to Mr. Snyder’s mother that the 32-year-old died while waiting for the surgery. While one cannot speculate that there is malpractice in Mr. Snyder’s situation, it is not normal for a broken leg to cause death for a young person. Thus, it should have been investigated closely.
However, Florida Statute 768.21 makes it tough to bring a lawsuit against a hospital for Trevor Snyder’s parents, since he was not a minor under 25. Beyond that, despite Trevor caring for his girlfriend’s children, neither his girlfriend nor his dependents (who are not his children by birth) have a claim under 768.21. In other words, even if the doctors at the North Florida hospital were 100% negligent, there will be no investigation and no lawsuit by an attorney. If the doctors negligently allowed Trevor to perish, there will be no consequences. Worse yet, there will be no closure for the Snyder family on the question of “How did this happen?” This has been the state of the law for 30 years in Florida.
Lawsuits against doctors who have committed medical malpractice are important, as they provide justice and closure for families that have suffered senseless losses. Do not assume there is no medical malpractice claim, even if you have read 768.21. Contact Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith PLLC. Our experienced attorneys can help you analyze the statute to determine if you or your loved ones have a claim.
Written by Attorney Chad Hastings.