A recent report by Harvard Medical School revealed the rate of medical malpractice claims paid out in the U.S. has dropped substantially over the last 20 years – by 56 percent. Meanwhile, the average payout for successful claims has climbed by nearly 25 percent, reaching about $353,000 between 2009 and 2014, up from about $287,000 in the 1992-1996 time frame.
Meanwhile, health insurance rates – one of the primary justifications for imposing damage caps and other limitations on these claims, making them harder to win – have risen astronomically. NBC News reported recently that health insurance has risen almost every year, and it’s gone up faster than wages and inflation. They have risen 213 percent since 1999 for family coverage, according to the Kaiser Foundation. By comparison, wages rose 60 percent during that time while inflation rose 44 percent. Health care spending accounts for 17 percent of the U.S. economy, whereas in 1980, it was just half that.
The Florida Supreme Court addressed this very issue in its 2014 5-02 ruling in McCall v. U.S., where it ruled damage caps on medical malpractice lawsuits ending in death are unconstitutional. The court cited the Eighth Amendment’s equal protection clause, but noted the wrongful death noneconomic damage cap did not bear a rational relationship to the stated purpose, which was the alleged medical malpractice insurance crisis in Florida. Continue reading