FLORIDA HOUSE BILL 1369
Florida House of Rep, Amber Mariano, introduced a new Bill to try and help patients wrongfully injured in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida. The most notable amendments would be the following:
(1) Mandatory $2 million insurance coverage per claim and $4 million annual aggregate. This insurance policy would not be a “wasting” or depleting policy.
(2) Punitive Damages: If a punitive damages judgment was issued by a jury, the claimant (i.e. the injured party) would be able to receive 90% of the punitive portion. Presently, the claimant only gets 50% as the remaining portion goes to a Long Care Facility Improvement Trust Fund (which is already over-funded, see more in our post).
(3) Insurance Companies will be required to report nursing home personal injury claims to the Office of Insurance.
Amber Mariano, a Republican, in House District 36 (Pasco County, Florida), has sponsored House Bill 1369 in an effort to help those that have been victims of elder abuse and nursing home neglect in the State of Florida. Ms. Mariano has recognized a growing crisis with nursing home negligence lawsuits: too many facilities carry insufficient insurance to help pay victims of nursing home abuse and neglect.
A NURSING HOME CRISIS: TOO LITTLE INSURANCE FOR NURSING HOME VICTIMS
According to the Agency for Health Care Administration (January 22, 2018 E-mail) the following chart breaks down the amount of insurance nursing homes have taken out for nursing home abuse claims:
There are 684 licensed nursing homes in Florida. Of those, a large portion (304 out of 684) have less than $100,000 in insurance proceeds to cover a single claim for nursing home neglect and abuse.
Furthermore, Representative Mariano is very astute in understanding that the majority of these insurance policies are “wasting” policies, i.e. costs to defend the case will reduce the amount available for the claimant. Therefore, she has proposed that all 684 licensed nursing homes be required to have $2 million in insurance and that they not be wasting policies so that the claimant can be fully compensated.
As a Florida nursing home negligence lawyer and a Florida assisted living negligence lawyer, I can say that we have seen the nursing home insurance crisis pop-up repeatedly when trying to help people who have been wrongfully injured. We are hopeful that this Bill can pass so that victims can be fully compensated.
It is not fair or justified to take a patient’s Medicare and Medicaid money, wrongfully injure that person, and then claim that there is no money to compensate them.
PUNITIVE DAMAGES IN NURSING HOME AND ASSISTED LIVING CASES
When pursuing punitive damages in nursing home and assisted living facility cases, one has to remember that Florida law limits how much the injured party receives if a judgment is rendered in their favor.
Presently, the injured party has to give 50% of the punitive damage judgment to a “Trust Fund” called the Long Care Facility Improvement Trust Fund. However, does the Trust Fund really need funds that should go to injured victims?
As of January 18, 2018, the total balance of the Trust Fund is $22,579,079.10. Furthermore, since 2008, only $350,386.78 has ever been deposited into the Trust Fund due to a punitive damage judgment. Therefore, Representative Mariano recognizes that the Fund is not dependent on these punitive damage claims and also recognizes that giving 50% of a judgment is unjust and unfairly takes away proceeds from the injured party.
As an advocate for Nursing Home Abuse Victims and Assisted Living Abuse Victims, we support Representative Mariano’s efforts to try and obtain these legislative changes. We encourage citizens of Florida to stand behind Representative Mariano, this Bill, and urge your local representatives to vote in favor of it passing.
Representative Mariano’s contact information can be found here.