With the 2012 election consuming politics, candidates and politicians are once again debating tort reform. Tort reform initiatives seek to limit plaintiff’s access to the court system, restrict the types of claims that can be asserted, and cap the damages to which you may recover in a lawsuit.
Advocates of tort reform suggest that damage caps will reduce health care costs by reducing the amount that doctors and hospitals need to pay insurance companies for medical malpractice insurers. As we recently reported, however, a new study conducted by a group of professors at prestigious law schools reveals that tort reform is ineffective at reducing health care spending.
Specifically, the 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.
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 as February 2011. Nonetheless, according to this article, as of 2011, nearly 30 states placed damage in medical malpractice cases and, in at least 16 states, courts have upheld the constitutionality of non-economic or total damages. In at least 11 other states, the courts overturned damage caps.
As we reported in August, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned a Missouri state law that limited the amount a plaintiff could recover in the case of medical negligence. Damages for pain and suffering are often referred to as “non-economic damages” because they are not intended to reimburse specific financial expenses, such as medical bills and lost wages. In 2005, Missouri enacted a tort reform law that limited non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $350,000.
As a result of the Court’s decision to overturn the tort reform law, Missouri is no longer subject to damage caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The decision does not affect wrongful death lawsuits, which are still subject to damage caps.
Tort reform is likely to remain a hot button issue, particularly during the duration of the election season. 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.