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Florida does not require that medical malpractice actions be referred to an arbitrator, although judges are authorized to refer cases to nonbinding arbitration. Florida does have the system of voluntary binding arbitration for the determination of damages, which gives defendants an option to limit noneconomic damages in return for admitting liability. Arbitration, once chosen, is the exclusive means by which to seek recovery.
If a defendant refuses to accept the claimant’s offer to arbitrate, the claimant, if successful at trial, is entitled to prejudgment interest and up to 25 percent of the award in attorneys’ fees.
If a claimant refuses to accept a defendant’s offer to arbitrate, his recovery will be limited to economic damages, but only 80 percent of lost wages plus no more than $350,000 in noneconomic damages.
If the claimant does accept, his recovery will be limited to economic damage, but only 80 percent of lost wages plus no more than $250,000 in noneconomic damages, plus attorneys’ fees of fifteen percent.
The damage cap in the arbitration statute has been held to be constitutional. A recent District Court of Appeal decision held that an arbitrator may award no more than $250,000 for a single wrongful death claim, regardless of the number of claimants. It certified to the Supreme Court the question whether the cap on noneconomic damages of $250,000 per incident in a voluntary arbitration applies to each beneficiary under the Wrongful Death Act or applies in the aggregate to all beneficiaries.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified medical malpractice lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local medical malpractice attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.