What is a NICA claim?

The “Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Act” is a law passed by the Florida Legislature in 1988. The abbreviation “NICA” is often used to refer to the “Neurological Injury Compensation Act,” and sometimes used to refer to the “Neurological Injury Compensation Association,” which is the agency created to administer the NICA program.

The NICA program’s original purpose was not to provide benefits to families with injured children. The program was intended to shield obstetricians and hospitals from liability for causing catastrophic injuries to newborn babies because of negligence during labor and delivery. The statute grants obstetricians, hospitals, and other healthcare providers immunity from being sued in certain situations, and replaces the family’s right to file a medical malpractice law suit with the right to recover compensation from the NICA program.

To recover NICA benefits a family must file an administrative claim for the benefits with the Florida Department of Administrative Hearings and prove, among other things, that the injuries occurred at (or very near) the time of birth. However, the family does not have to prove that the injuries were caused by negligence of the obstetrician or anyone else.

To be covered by the NICA plan each of these requirements must be met:

1) An obstetrician who attended the delivery must be a member of NICA at the time of the delivery;
2) The baby must be born alive and in a hospital;
3) The baby must have weighed at least 2500 grams, i.e. about 5.5 pounds, at birth (2000 grams for multiple gestation);
4) The baby must have suffered injury to the brain or spinal cord caused by oxygen deprivation or mechanical injury;
5) The injury must have occurred during labor, during delivery, or during resuscitation right after birth; and
6) The baby’s injury must include severe and permanent physical AND mental impairments (or death).

A NICA claim may enable you to recover lifetime “medically necessary and reasonable medical and hospital, rehabilitative and training, family residential or custodial care, professional residential, and custodial care and service, for medically necessary drugs, special equipment, and facilities, and for related travel.”

“Family residential or custodial care” means care normally rendered by trained professional attendants which is beyond the scope of child care duties, but which is provided by family members. Family members who provide nonprofessional residential or custodial care may not be compensated under this act for care that falls within the scope of child care duties and other services normally and gratuitously provided by family members. Family residential or custodial care shall be performed only at the direction and control of a physician when such care is medically necessary.

In addition, a special statute of limitations is placed on NICA claims giving parents five years from the baby’s date of birth to file a claim. On the other hand, the statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice claim is much more complicated and can range from two years to eight years after the date of birth, depending on the unique circumstances.

If your child was injured during or before birth as the result of a surgery, medication, or other medical treatment, and you believe the injury may have been the product of medical malpractice, you need an attorney that has experience in dealing with birth injury claims by your side to make sure you receive all the benefits and compensation you are entitled to. You need experienced and aggressive attorneys like Dan Newlin & Partners to help you get everything to which you may be entitled. Call us at (407) 888-8000 for a free consultation and to have all your questions answered regarding your injury.