What is the Average Settlement for a Medical Malpractice Claim in West Palm Beach, FL?

Every medical malpractice claim is unique; each claim includes different facts and variables, from injuries to corrective treatments.

But Florida does track and publish data from its insurance industry. This report discloses the total claim payments made by medical malpractice insurers. It also publishes the total number of claims closed each year and the percentage that went unpaid. 

From these numbers, the average settlement for medical malpractice claims in West Palm Beach and throughout Florida was about $450,000.

Here are the things you should know about how this average claim settlement was calculated and what it can tell you about medical malpractice claims.

Medical Malpractice Insurance Disclosures

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation publishes a report called the Medical Malpractice Closed Claim Database and Rate Filing Annual Report. This report provides a wealth of information from the medical malpractice insurers that write policies in Florida.

This report does not directly calculate the average settlement for a medical malpractice claim. Instead, it describes the medical practice insurance industry as a whole. But you can extrapolate the average settlement from two data points, which we’ll explore below.

Total Claims Closed

In 2019, the most recent year with full data, medical malpractice insurers closed 2,934 claims. Insurers close claims when a case ends.

According to the report, insurers closed about 30% of cases without paying any settlement. This means that the insurer won the case in litigation or the injured patient dropped the claim.

Insurers paid a settlement in approximately 2,054 claims in 2019.

Total Indemnity Paid

In 2019, insurers reported a total of $940.5 million paid in indemnity. “Indemnity” means the insurer paid on behalf of someone else who was liable for the claim. In this case, a healthcare provider incurred the liability, but the insurer was legally required to indemnify them under the malpractice insurance policy.

Average Settlement for Medical Malpractice Claims

To calculate the average settlement, you divide the total indemnity paid by the number of claims closed with a settlement payment. This gives an average claim settlement of about $450,000 for medical malpractice claims.

Caveats About This Number

The average claim settlement provides some information, but this information is limited for a few reasons:

Mean, Not Median or Mode

The figure $450,000 is the mean, not a median or a mode. The mean is the average spread across all the claimants who were paid a settlement. The median is the middle number if each settlement amount were ordered from smallest to largest. The mode is the most frequently occurring settlement number.

To give a simple example, if five people get a $450,000 settlement, the mean, mode, and median are all $450,000. You can expect a $450,000 settlement in this example.

If four people settle for $1,000 and one person settles for $2.2 million, the mean is also $450,000. But the median and mode are $1,000. In this example, $1,000 settlements are more common than $2.2 million settlements. You should expect a $1,000 settlement in this example.

You should not assume that most people received a $450,000 settlement based on the mean. The insurance industry report does not include enough data to determine the median and mode for the reported settlements.

Attorney Fees

Most personal injury attorneys charge a contingent fee. A contingent fee has many benefits, including:

  • No out-of-pocket charges to clients before or during the case
  • The client only pays attorney fees after a win or settlement
  • The attorney receives no fees after a loss

After the insurer pays settlements to the injured patients, the injured patients still need to pay their lawyer fees.

Medical Liens

Depending on where you receive treatment in Florida, your medical provider can place a lien against your personal injury settlement for unpaid medical bills.

A lien is a claim for payment. When you receive your settlement, you have a legal obligation to pay the liens and can face a lawsuit if you do not.

Florida does not have a statute that authorizes medical liens statewide. Instead, the power to authorize medical liens is left to each county. Palm Beach County does not have an ordinance authorizing medical liens. But many other counties in Florida do. 

If you received treatment in Broward County, for example, the hospital might file a lien against your settlement.

Factors that Influence the Amount of a Settlement

Settlement amounts vary because the figure depends on your injuries, your treatment, and how your injuries will affect your life.

Some factors that go into calculating a settlement include:

Medical Bills

The claim adjuster will use your medical bills as a starting point for the settlement negotiations. You should receive compensation for all past and future expenses incurred for medical treatment, physical and mental therapy, and medication.

Lost Income

You will submit wage statements and pay stubs to show how much work you missed due to the medical error. If you have a permanent disability, you would also submit evidence of your diminished earning capacity.

Thus, if you missed 100 hours of work due to the injury caused by the medical malpractice, you would claim compensation for the average wage you would have earned over that time. You would also claim lost income if you need to take on a role with light duty or switch jobs due to the effects of the medical error.

Pain and Suffering

Florida once had a statute that limited damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases. But this statute was invalidated by the Florida Supreme Court. As a result, you can claim compensation for your physical and mental anguish resulting from the medical error.

Maximizing Your Settlement for Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice settlements in West Palm Beach take a long time to settle. To maximize your settlement, you must document your case thoroughly and remain patient. Settling quickly can result in a lower settlement.

You should also consider hiring a West Palm Beach injury lawyer to negotiate with the insurer. Although settlements vary from case to case, a lawyer can estimate the value of your particular case and hold the insurer’s feet to the fire to get a fair settlement.