In June 2013, Governor Scott signed SB 1792 and HB 7015 into law, introducing two major obstacles to patients filing medical malpractice claims. The changes have been in effect since July 1, 2013, and suing for medical malpractice is now more difficult than ever.
Expert witnesses are harder to find
Prior to this new legislation, medical expert witnesses only had to practice a “similar” specialty as the doctor being sued. Now, expert witnesses must practice the exact same medical specialty. As a result, the pool of available expert witnesses has narrowed significantly. Especially in small communities like ours, finding a physician who is both willing to testify and fits the new law’s stringent criteria can be extremely challenging.
Your privacy is no longer protected
The new law also allows defendant doctors to effectively bypass HIPAA and disclose patient information without the presence of the patient or his/her attorney. Defense lawyers can even speak directly to the doctors that are currently treating the victim’s injuries. If the defense attorney submits a request to interview the patient’s treating physician, the patient’s attorney has 15 days to arrange an interview. If the patient’s attorney fails to schedule an interview within that window, then the defendant can interview the treating physician without providing any notice to the patient. This could create another unfortunate side effect: patients withholding information from their attending doctors for fear that it will be divulged in the courtroom and could potentially weaken their case.
Unsurprisingly, the new law is a large deterrent against filing medical malpractice claims. For some, the risk of privacy violation is enough reason to abandon all legal proceedings, even when the claim is legitimate.
Navigating your medical malpractice claim has always been a complex undertaking. At Saunders Law Group, our experienced attorneys keep pace with legislative changes such as these, ensuring that our clients have the best possible chance of winning their cases.