Several states have passed or are considering passing tort reform legislation that would limit the damage awards on medical malpractice lawsuits. As of 2011, nearly 30 states placed damage caps on medical malpractice awards and, in at least 16 states, courts have upheld the constitutionality of non-economic or total damages. In at least 11 other states, however, courts have overturned damage caps.
Georgia reformed its medical malpractice laws in 2005, but one group is now asking the Georgia legislature to take tort reform one step further. According to the Marietta Daily Journal, a group of doctors going by the name of Patients for Fair Compensation is asking Georgia lawmakers to consider a new system that would eliminate court-based medical malpractice cases entirely. Instead of using lawsuits to resolve allegations of medical negligence, the group is suggesting that George adopt an administrative system whereby patients could file claims for review by a panel. If the panel determined that an “avoidable harm” occurred, the claim would be forwarded to a Compensation Board to determine the appropriate damages award. An administrative law judge would oversee the entire process.
The system would be financed through professional liability premiums paid by doctors and hospitals, with no cost to taxpayers. The group argues that current medical malpractice laws encourage defensive medicine, with doctors ordering unnecessary tests and procedures just to protect themselves against the possibility of legal action by their patients.
Despite the group’s arguments, data shows that tort reform is ineffective at reducing health care costs. As we recently reported, a new study found that there is no evidence of reductions in health care spending following the enactment of various tort reform measures in Texas. The study examined the ways that Medicare spending changed after Texas adopted comprehensive tort reform in 2003 that included a strict damages cap. The study also compared Medicare spending in Texas counties with high Medicare claim rates with counties with low Medicare claim rates and found little difference between the two. When compared to national trends, the study found no evidence of reduced health care spending in Texas following the tort reform damage caps. In fact, the study revealed some evidence that physical spending actually increased in Texas relative to various control states.
Moreover, patients have a legitimate interest in preserving their right to pursue legal action for medical malpractice in order to receive fair and just compensation, but also to hold doctors and hospitals accountable for mistakes.
Illinois currently does not have damage caps on medical malpractice or personal injury verdicts. Any legislative attempts to invoke damages caps have been ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court, most recently in February 2011.
At Ankin Law Offices, LLC our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of victims of medical malpractice and their families. Tort reform and damage caps undoubtedly hurt patients and the general public by failing to hold doctors, hospitals and other medical professionals financially responsible for their injuries or deaths that they have caused. If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation.