Three Provisions of the Medical Malpractice Act That Discuss Economic Damages
Three provisions of the Medical Malpractice Act discuss economic damages.
Section 766.202(3) defines "economic damages" as "including, but not limited to, past and future medical expenses and 80 percent of wage loss and loss of earning capacity."
Section 766.207(7)(a) provides that arbitration shall be undertaken with the understanding that "[n]et economic damages shall be awardable, including, but not limited to, past and future medical expenses and 80 percent of wage loss and loss of earning capacity, offset by any collateral source payments."
This economic damages provision is replicated under section 766.209, which applies when a claimant rejects an offer to arbitrate.
Unlike the Medical Malpractice Act, the Wrongful Death Act does not provide claimants with such a full range of economic damages.
Under section 768.21(1) of the Wrongful Death Act, each survivor may recover the value of lost support and services from the date of the decedent's injury, and under section 768.21(6), the estate may recover the decedent's loss of earnings, loss of prospective net accumulations, and medical and funeral expenses.
We conclude that the arbitration provisions of the Medical Malpractice Act expressly specify the elements of all of the damages available when the parties agree to binding arbitration, regardless of whether the medical malpractice action involves a wrongful death.
The plain language of sections 766.202(3) and 766.207(7)(a) indicates that the full range of economic damages is available to claimants as an incentive to forego a jury trial on damages and proceed to arbitration. the legislative intent of the Medical Malpractice Act also indicates that the arbitration provisions were enacted to address soaring noneconomic damage awards, rather than the more predictable economic damage awards. See 766.201.
If the Legislature intended for the Wrongful Death Act to control the elements of damages available in a medical malpractice arbitration, it could have specifically provided for the application of the provisions of that Act in the Medical Malpractice Act.