(1) As used in this section, the term: (a) “Claim for residents’ rights violation or negligence” means a negligence claim alleging injury to or the death of a resident arising out of an asserted violation of the rights of a resident under s. 429.28 or an asserted deviation from the applicable standard of care. (b) “Insurer” means any self-insurer authorized under s. 627.357, liability insurance carrier, joint underwriting association, or uninsured prospective defendant. (2) Prior to filing a claim for a violation of a resident’s rights or a claim for negligence, a claimant alleging injury to or the death of a resident shall notify each prospective defendant by certified mail, return receipt requested, of an asserted violation of a resident’s rights provided in s. 429.28 or deviation from the standard of care. Such notification shall include an identification of the rights the prospective defendant has violated and the negligence alleged to have caused the incident or incidents and a brief description of the injuries sustained by the resident which are reasonably identifiable at the time of notice. The notice shall contain a certificate of counsel that counsel’s reasonable investigation gave rise to a good faith belief that grounds exist for an action against each prospective defendant. (3)(a) No suit may be filed for a period of 75 days after notice is mailed to any prospective defendant. During the 75-day period, the prospective defendants or their insurers shall conduct an evaluation of the claim to determine the liability of each defendant and to evaluate the damages of the claimants. Each defendant or insurer of the defendant shall have a procedure for the prompt evaluation of claims during the 75-day period. The procedure shall include one or more of the following:
1. Internal review by a duly qualified facility risk manager or claims adjuster;
2. Internal review by counsel for each prospective defendant;
3. A quality assurance committee authorized under any applicable state or federal statutes or regulations; or
4. Any other similar procedure that fairly and promptly evaluates the claims.
Each defendant or insurer of the defendant shall evaluate the claim in good faith.
(b) At or before the end of the 75 days, the defendant or insurer of the defendant shall provide the claimant with a written response:
1. Rejecting the claim; or
2. Making a settlement offer.
(c) The response shall be delivered to the claimant if not represented by counsel or to the claimant’s attorney, by certified mail, return receipt requested. Failure of the prospective defendant or insurer of the defendant to reply to the notice within 75 days after receipt shall be deemed a rejection of the claim for purposes of this section.
(4) The notification of a violation of a resident’s rights or alleged negligence shall be served within the applicable statute of limitations period; however, during the 75-day period, the statute of limitations is tolled as to all prospective defendants. Upon stipulation by the parties, the 75-day period may be extended and the statute of limitations is tolled during any such extension. Upon receiving written notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, of termination of negotiations in an extended period, the claimant shall have 60 days or the remainder of the period of the statute of limitations, whichever is greater, within which to file suit.
(5) No statement, discussion, written document, report, or other work product generated by presuit claims evaluation procedures under this section is discoverable or admissible in any civil action for any purpose by the opposing party. All participants, including, but not limited to, physicians, investigators, witnesses, and employees or associates of the defendant, are immune from civil liability arising from participation in the presuit claims evaluation procedure. Any licensed physician or registered nurse may be retained by either party to provide an opinion regarding the reasonable basis of the claim. The presuit opinions of the expert are not discoverable or admissible in any civil action for any purpose by the opposing party.
(6) Upon receipt by a prospective defendant of a notice of claim, the parties shall make discoverable information available without formal discovery as provided in subsection (7).
(7) Informal discovery may be used by a party to obtain unsworn statements and the production of documents or things, as follows:
(a) Unsworn statements.—Any party may require other parties to appear for the taking of an unsworn statement. Such statements may be used only for the purpose of claims evaluation and are not discoverable or admissible in any civil action for any purpose by any party. A party seeking to take the unsworn statement of any party must give reasonable notice in writing to all parties. The notice must state the time and place for taking the statement and the name and address of the party to be examined. Unless otherwise impractical, the examination of any party must be done at the same time by all other parties. Any party may be represented by counsel at the taking of an unsworn statement. An unsworn statement may be recorded electronically, stenographically, or on videotape. The taking of unsworn statements is subject to the provisions of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and may be terminated for abuses.
(b) Documents or things.—Any party may request discovery of relevant documents or things. The documents or things must be produced, at the expense of the requesting party, within 20 days after the date of receipt of the request. A party is required to produce relevant and discoverable documents or things within that party’s possession or control, if in good faith it can reasonably be done within the timeframe of the claims evaluation process.
(8) Each request for and notice concerning informal discovery pursuant to this section must be in writing, and a copy thereof must be sent to all parties. Such a request or notice must bear a certificate of service identifying the name and address of the person to whom the request or notice is served, the date of the request or notice, and the manner of service thereof.
(9) If a prospective defendant makes a written settlement offer, the claimant shall have 15 days from the date of receipt to accept the offer. An offer shall be deemed rejected unless accepted by delivery of a written notice of acceptance.
(10) To the extent not inconsistent with this part, the provisions of the Florida Mediation Code, Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, shall be applicable to such proceedings.
(11) Within 30 days after the claimant’s receipt of defendant’s response to the claim, the parties or their designated representatives shall meet in mediation to discuss the issues of liability and damages in accordance with the mediation rules of practice and procedures adopted by the Supreme Court. Upon stipulation of the parties, this 30-day period may be extended and the statute of limitations is tolled during the mediation and any such extension. At the conclusion of mediation, the claimant shall have 60 days or the remainder of the period of the statute of limitations, whichever is greater, within which to file suit.