Florida has over 300 registered hospitals with more than 62,000 licensed beds, so it should come as no surprise that medical malpractice cases are relatively common in the Sunshine State.
But just how common are medical malpractice claims in Florida compared to the rest of the United States?
For the answer, we can turn to the National Practitioner Data Bank.
What is medical malpractice?
When a patient suffers harm due to the actions (or inactions) of a healthcare professional that diverge from the recognized standards of care, it can be categorized as medical malpractice.
This type of claim isn’t limited to doctors but can be levied against any licensed medical professional.
Some frequent causes of medical malpractice claims include:
- Failing to diagnose an illness
- Misdiagnosing an illness
- Misreading a lab result
- Prescribing and improper medication or dosage
- Failing to follow proper medical procedure
- Failing to warn a patient of known risks
- Prematurely discharging a patient
In order to establish a medical malpractice claim in Florida, a patient must prove the following two elements:
- The health care provider failed to exercise the degree of care and skill expected of a reasonable health care provider in the profession, and
- Such failure was the actual and proximate cause of the patient’s injury.
In simpler terms, the person bringing the lawsuit (the “plaintiff”) will aim to convince the court that the medical professional failed to act with the same level of care that an ordinary health care professional with the same training and experience would have. Meanwhile, the defendant will argue that the health care professional acted competently. In Florida, expert testimony must be introduced by both parties to bolster their respective stances.
What is the National Practitioner Data Bank?
The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) is a federal database that collects information related to doctors and other health care practitioners. The NPDB was created pursuant to The Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986 with the goal of improving the quality of healthcare in the United States.
The NPDB collects a wide range of information concerning medical malpractice claims, including malpractice payments, disciplinary actions taken by state medical boards, and criminal convictions related to health care delivery.
The most recent year for which NPDB data is available is 2022.
How common are medical malpractice payments in Florida?
To determine where Florida ranks when it comes to medical malpractice payments, I first calculated the malpractice payment rate per capita for the state. This was done by dividing the total number of medical malpractice payments in Florida by the total population of Florida. I then multiplied the number by 100,000, which gave the number of medical malpractice payments per one hundred thousand people.
Second, I compared this payment rate per capita to the 49 other states. Here’s what I found:
|States and territories with the most medical
malpractice payments (2022)
|States||Payments per 100,000 people|
As you can see, Florida has the fifth most medical malpractice payments in the country.
The NPDB also keeps track of something called “adverse action reports.” These reports indicate when actions, other than medical malpractice claims, are taken against a health care practitioner. For example, if a physician’s privileges are suspended due to harassment, an adverse action report will be filed.
With all of that in mind, here’s a closer look at the state of Florida over the last five years:
|Medical malpractice payment||1,293||1,205||979||1,048||1,249|
|Adverse action report||2,744||2,664||2,682||2,278||2,228|
Why does Florida have so many medical malpractice payments?
Medical malpractice payments occur for a variety of reasons. A high number of claims doesn’t necessarily indicate a lower standard of health care.
Here are some reasons why medical malpractice payments may be more common in Florida than in some other states:
- More medical providers: According to Statista, Florida has the fourth most active medical providers of any state (more than 60,000). Medical malpractice payments may be greater due to the sheer number of patients receiving treatment, even if the percentage of negligent cases is not necessarily higher.
- More specialists: According to the American Medical Association, the following physician specialties are more likely to face malpractice claims: obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, emergency medicine, and radiology. It’s entirely possible that Florida has a greater concentration of these specialists than most other states.
- Older population: The elderly are typically at greater risk when it comes to health issues. What’s more, there is some evidence that older patients experience more medical errors than younger patients. As you probably already know, Florida has one of the oldest populations in the country.
- Lack of discipline: A review of state records conducted by Health News Florida found that most practitioners with multiple malpractice settlements in Florida face little to no discipline and continue to practice, which, unsurprisingly, often leads to more malpractice claims.
“The malpractice system [in Florida] obviously doesn’t work very well, because if it did, then you wouldn’t have a pattern of 6 or 8 or 10 or more malpractice payouts,” said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, founder of the Public Citizen Health Research Group, based in Washington D.C.
Medical malpractice claims are a significant concern in Florida. The reasons for this are multifaceted, but two things are certain: You have rights as a patient, and you don’t need to navigate this complex legal landscape alone.
Reach out to an experienced Florida attorney who can help you receive the compensation you deserve. At Lorenzo & Lorenzo, we offer free initial consultations.