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Medical malpractice exemption limits wrongful death claims

If a motorist runs a red light and takes the life of someone you love, you may have a wrongful death claim for pain and suffering.

However, when you lose your loved one because of medical malpractice, you may not have the right to pursue damages for the emotional toll.

The state has a wrongful death loophole for medical malpractice

According to US News and World Report, Florida is the only state with a medical malpractice loophole in its wrongful death laws.

State law limits the categories of individuals who may seek certain damages for death arising from negligence. When death occurs at the hands of a health care provider or medical facility, only certain individuals may seek compensation for pain and suffering:

  • Married individuals who lose their spouse
  • Parents whose child dies before turning 25 years old
  • Minor children who lose a parent

Perhaps you and your significant other share a household but have not tied the knot. This law prevents you from making a claim for pain and suffering if he or she dies from a doctor’s negligence. You may be a widow who relies on your adult son to bring you groceries. You also lack a claim if your son passes away during a hospital procedure.

Public debate highlights competing policy concerns

Medical professionals defend this loophole. Physicians argue that because the law protects them from malpractice suits, they can maintain lower liability insurance rates and keep your health care costs down.

Detractors argue that removing the loophole would improve patient safety by making the health care industry accountable for negligence. They assert that the state has attracted doctors running from malpractice claims in other states.

Analysts estimate that this loophole may have consequences for more than half of the state’s residents. Unmarried college students, middle-aged single parents with children over 25 and widowed seniors comprise a large portion of the population.

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