Florida Still Allows Nursing Homes to Operate Without Specifying Minimum Liability Insurance Coverage

According to several studies cited by the National Center for Elder Abuse, about 44 percent of nursing home residents report being abused at some point during their nursing home stays. Even more shocking, 95 percent said they had personally been neglected or seen another resident neglected. Moreover, in a 2008 government study, about 70 percent of state surveys understated the problems in the facilities sampled and about 15 percent of those surveys missed actual harm being caused in the investigated facilities.

Nevertheless, Florida, along with a number of other states nationwide, still does not seem to find it necessary to set a minimum liability insurance threshold. In other words, although the State of Florida requires a minimum of $10,000 personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 property damage coverage for automobiles, it has no such minimum coverage requirement for nursing homes.

Efforts at Reform

In 2001, Florida Senate Bill 1202 authorized language that would require coverage for nursing homes beginning in 2002. But that language has almost no real effect, as it simply says that nursing homes will “maintain liability insurance coverage that is in force at all times.” Therefore, while insurance is required, amounts are left to the discretion of the facilities.

Ongoing Debates

A 2006 study demonstrated the divide between consumer groups and the nursing home industry. On one hand, the public has an interest in making sure that individuals and the general public are not left on the hook for paying for the enormous cost of nursing home negligence. On the other hand, the nursing home industry claimed that the less insurance they carry, the less of a target they are for lawsuits. In this completely bizarre reasoning, the nursing home industry seems to keep a straight face while arguing that if Florida would only let them go uninsured, then they would not be sued so much.

Nevertheless, despite countless studies and a healthy amount of misinformation on the Web, the research repeatedly shows that requiring insurance premiums does not equate to more lawsuits, and valid, justified lawsuits do not raise premiums. In fact, Aon Risk Management was consulted in 2005 to determine the success of Senate Bill 1202 on reducing frivolous lawsuits. The results were “inconclusive.” Likewise, many supporters of the bill claimed it would reduce frivolous lawsuits. However, a study by the University of South Florida determined that of the thousand cases surveyed almost all were perfectly meritorious.

Fighting Back

While the state legislature may repeatedly fail to protect Florida’s seniors, letting big corporate healthcare companies go uninsured, this does not mean victims of abuse and neglect must go uncompensated. Many people who are seriously injured or killed by negligent medical or nursing care are able to recover from self-insured defendants and even obtain compensation that exceeds the nursing homes’ insurance policies. You may not know which facilities carry insurance or which ones are repeat offenders, but experienced and aggressive trial lawyers do. If you are injured by careless nursing home mistakes, you should contact a Florida personal injury lawyer at the Romero Law Firm who understands the issues and can fight back to get you the compensation you deserve.

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