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July 28, 2001 - Miami, Florida Patients' Right Unused; Lawyers Donít Foresee Any Rush To Sue HMOs

The new Miami, Florida law that came into effect on January 1, 2000 that allows patients to appeal to an independent panel when their HMO denies them treatment is not likely to produce a flood of litigation, though patients may now sue for pain, suffering and punitive damages. Eight other states have passed similar laws and more than 20 others are looking at similar legislation.

In the past, patients who felt wronged could sue, but even if they won, they could collect only the cost of the denied service, typically a few hundred or few thousand dollars. Now, with the ability to collect punitive damages, awards are unlimited. Although the patients' rights bills are new, HMOs always have been liable for malpractice.

Attorneys who represent patients say they don't expect a series of suits. "The floodgates opened, and the three drops that came out didn't satisfy anyone's thirst," said one attorney who helped draft Miami, Florida's legislation. Other Miami, Florida attorneys believe that the lack of action in Miami, Florida is partly due to the newness of the law.

Attorneys for HMOs said it was too early to gauge the effect of Miami, Florida's legislation because the legal system is just gearing up. "They're creating legal strategies," said Geoff Freeman, deputy director of public affairs for the American Association of Health Plans, based in Washington, D.C., which represents more than 1,000 managed health plans. "This is a new type of product liability. Law schools will start teaching how to use this law."

The ability to collect more in punitive damages inevitably will spur more lawsuits, said John West, a Miami attorney who represents four of the major HMOs in Miami, Florida. "Contrary to everyone's perception that these are deep-pocket companies with lots of money, the reality is that they are already under pressure because of increasing costs of health care," West said. "An increase in premiums is a legitimate issue being raised." Others believe the issue is not the lawsuits, but the deterrent effect of the law, since nobody wants to lower costs by allowing companies to rip people off: ďIf your case is too expensive, and they don't pay your claim and you don't have any recourse, then you don't really have insurance. It's more the illusion of insurance than actually having insurance," one attorney stated.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of possible medical malpractice, call Friedman Trial Lawyers now at (800) 446-6482 or CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A SIMPLE CASE FORM. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Donít delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.

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The medical malpractice information offered by Miami, Florida medical malpractice lawyers and contained herein, regarding Miami, Florida medical malpractice statutes and Miami, Florida medical malpractice claimants' rights is general in scope. No medical malpractice Miami, Florida attorney client relationship with our Miami, Florida medical malpractice attorneys is hereby formed nor is the negligent death information herein intended as formal legal advice. Please contact a Miami, Florida personal injury medical malpractice lawyer regarding your specific inquiry.

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