Undiagnosed Kidney Failure Claim Halted by Miami Hospital's Inadequate Insurance Coverage

Posted on by in Medical Malpractice

There is a law in Florida, Florida Statutes section 458.320, that says doctors must carry $100k in malpractice insurance in order to practice medicine. To have hospital staff privileges, to see patients not just in their offices but also in hospitals, doctors must have at the minimum $250k in malpractice insurance.

Most physicians carry limits of $250k-$750k. This limit is considerably lower than the usual physician malpractice insurance limits around the country, which are $1 million-$3 million.

Medical professionals in Florida also have the option of selecting $1 million-$3 million or choosing to "go bare" altogether. About five percent of doctors "go bare," choosing to carry no liability coverage.

Missed Case of Kidney Disease at Fox Medical Centers, Miami

One of our recent cases involved failure to diagnose a kidney disease early. When kidneys are working properly, they filter wastes and extra fluids from blood, turn the wastes into the urine, and send the urine to the bladder to be eliminated from the body. This process prevents poisons from building up in the system and making a patient critically ill. The gradual loss of kidney function is called Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). If the CKD is discovered early, the loss of kidney function can be slowed down and reduced.

Our client is a 22-year-old who had obvious symptoms of impending kidney failure. For the past two years, her regular health care providers have been the doctors at Fox Medical Centers. Although in the two-year period our client presented a gradual increase in pain, protein in her urine, an ultrasound that came back as abnormal, and a couple of other symptoms, the doctors at Fox Medical Centers failed to diagnose her developing kidney problem.

Undiagnosed and untreated, our client's CKD led to kidney failure that cannot be reversed. All of a sudden her kidneys failed to filter metabolic wastes from the blood. With kidneys that have stopped working, she needs dialysis to remove the poisons from her blood or a kidney transplant to give her a kidney that can work without dialysis.

The life expectancy of people who are on dialysis is much shorter than that of people who are not on dialysis. Dialysis is very painful and has a whole series of complications and risks, including infections. For most people, dialysis is a bridge that buys them time until they can have a kidney transplant. While waiting for a kidney transplant, our client is kept alive with dialysis. Our client didn't have to lose her kidneys; her disease was largely preventable if it would have been discovered and treated in time.

Hospitals in Miami Are Going With Insufficient Medical Malpractice Insurance

Fox Medical Centers are owned by four brothers and they all practice there. While most hospitals have malpractice insurance policies ranging from $10 million to $100 million, Fox Medical Centers have a $250k policy for the entire hospital.

This amount of insurance is utterly inadequate to pay the actual damages in medical negligence claims. What's the good of having a $250k medical malpractice policy if a patient's injuries result in medical bills of $800k? What about recovering the other damages, for example, wage losses?

An average medical malpractice claim can cost a Miami lawyer thousands of dollars in time and money just to conduct the investigation. Not to mention tens of thousands of dollars more to take a case all the way to trial. In Miami, we cannot simply sue a doctor for malpractice. First, before a lawsuit can be filed, all medical records, diagnostic films, and expert opinions have to be obtained. In addition, patients have to comply with Florida's pre-suit medical malpractice labyrinth, all within two years of the incident.

Sustaining in front of a jury the case that a doctor has committed malpractice is not easy, but collecting from underinsured or uninsured doctors and hospitals is almost impossible, in our experience. Many doctors are often educated in asset protection and have found legal and creative ways to insulate them from the collection.

Virtually every lawyer who sues doctors in Miami takes cases on a contingency fee basis. That means we will only get paid if and when the case resolves. These fees range from 34%-40% and are paid from the total amount. It also means that we are responsible for fronting the costs of the investigation and trial. Because underinsured and uninsured doctors and hospitals are undesirable defendants, when any Miami medical malpractice attorney investigates a potential claim, one of the first questions asked is: Does the doctor or hospital have enough malpractice insurance?

Miami Medical Malpractice Insurance Premiums and Damage Caps

In 2003, Legislature and then-Gov. Jeb Bush approved a change meant to correct what the Legislature called a "medical malpractice insurance crisis." But the real health system crisis in Miami was and continues to be inadequate patient safety.

According to the governor and the supporting legislators, the solution to the high cost of physicians' medical malpractice insurance premiums was to limit patients injured by a doctor's or malpractice or negligence in the amount they could recover in compensation. In medical malpractice lawsuits, a patient could not recover more than $500k in damages for their pain and suffering or up to $1 million if the injuries were catastrophic.

Florida's cap lasted for over a decade. In 2017, the state's highest court ruled that the mentioned limits are unconstitutional, opening the door for injured patients to recover full compensation for their injuries.

Over a decade of caps on damages has not lowered insurance premiums. The spike in medical liability premiums was and is caused by mismanagement and the insurance cycle, not the legal system. Medical malpractice rates in Florida continue to be high. In Miami-Dade County insurance costs twice as much or more as similar policies in other parts of the state, meaning this county has the most expensive medical malpractice insurance rates in Florida. The Palm Beach area and Broward County also have high rates compared to the rest of the state.

Contact Our Miami Medical Malpractice and Negligence Attorney

The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary is top-rated by our legal peers and clients alike. We prepare every case as if it's going to go to trial, which leads to both better and quicker settlements and better verdicts. Put more than 20 years of experience on your side; call today 305.416.9805 to speak with our Miami based medical malpractice attorney.

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