The Florida Senate currently has a bill involving personal injury and medical bills pending a vote on the floor. Though it hasn’t been passed into law yet, the bill could have ramifications on how much plaintiffs receive in personal injury cases. In short, by changing the structure of the lawsuit and what kind of medical bill information can be admitted into evidence, the bill makes it potentially easier for plaintiffs to see an increase in damages in these cases going forward.
Florida Senate Bill 0384
In March of 2017, the Florida Senate Rules Committee voted 10-1 to pass a medical malpractice bill to general voting on the Senate floor. The bill, number 384, faces opposition from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and several prominent businesses in Florida. This bill discusses how to calculate the damages incurred during some medical malpractice and wrongful death suits. Specifics on health and medical care costs will not be admissible as evidence if the bill passes the Florida Senate.
What Is Prejudgment Interest?
Part of the bill deals with prejudgment interest. Prejudgment interest is damages that the plaintiff gets if they win, and the number is determined when a trial begins. Upon winning, the plaintiff gets that prejudgment interest. Currently, plaintiffs in medical malpractice and wrongful death suits don’t get prejudgment interest. Calculating damages in a medical case is difficult, thanks to the complex nature of the cost of medical treatment and medical bills.
How Are Medical Bills Involved?
For one thing, medical bills aren’t the same across the board. Different healthcare providers have entirely separate structures for pricing the services they offer. Medical bills are a huge part of personal injury cases because they have so much to do with how much the plaintiff asks for, and how the lawsuit goes while it’s in a trial. The pricing that healthcare providers choose adds to the dispute surrounding these bills.
Because no medical treatment has a fixed price across the board, determining a prejudgment interest for personal injury cases could be very difficult. This is just one reason the damages awarded to the plaintiff don’t get decided until the end of the trial, or in a settlement. This bill still allows plaintiffs to recover attorneys’ fees and other legal expenses they incur during a trial.
Could the Bill Have a Downside?
S.B. 384 detractors say that allowing prejudgment interest in these cases will cause inflated settlements. The bill would make prejudgment interest mandatory in these cases, which not only makes the value of the lawsuit rise, it also forces people to put a number on damages that might be conjectural before the trial starts.
Personal injury cases are hard on plaintiffs, and sitting through an entire trial is a grueling process, even when you have the best personal injury lawyers. Though this bill has its detractors, bigger settlements might make life easier for the plaintiffs suffering through personal injury disasters. In committee, it passed with flying colors despite outside pressure to the contrary, but the fate of the bill on the Florida Senate floor remains to be seen.