Montlick & Associates: Study Reveals That Claims Tort Reform Would Reduce Medical Costs Appear Unfounded


June 28, 2012

The Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys at Montlick & Associates discuss the issue of tort reform and how this issue has become a hot button topic for those on both sides of the political spectrum. Advocates of tort reform, who often are strongly influenced by medical malpractice insurance providers, strongly support the position that tort reform reduces health care costs. Medical malpractice insurance carriers contend that "frivolous lawsuits" drive up insurance premiums and result in more expensive health care for consumers because doctors practice medicine too defensively. The theory is that physicians order too many unnecessary tests because they fear litigation.

However, a new study on the impact of tort reform on health care costs in Texas found that there has been NO benefit to the public in the reduced health care costs resulting from tort reform.

The research conducted by a University of Texas professor examined Medicare data and found that there was no reduction in the cost of doctor fees in the wake of the state imposing a $750,000 cap on general damages, which includes pain and suffering, impaired quality of life, mental anguish and other forms of less tangible but very real damages.

This study was conducted in the wake of a report provided by consumer advocates that found that Medicare spending actually increased faster in Texas following tort reform than the national average. In other words, tort reform not only did not result in lower health care costs but may actually have resulted in an increase in such cost to consumers. The study also revealed that tort reform did not result in reduced spending on health care in counties that had less risk of a malpractice lawsuit when compared to counties where the risk was greater.

The impact of tort reform on the amount of pain and suffering and quality of life damages that may be awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit can have an enormously unfair impact on victims of medical errors. The cost of litigating a case where the doctor has clearly made a medical error or omission may make it impossible for the malpractice victim to obtain legal representation. If a medical malpractice victim suffers catastrophic injury, such as paralysis or a brain injury, tort limits on special damages may not come close to compensating a victim for the impact of the medical provider's negligence on the accident victim's quality of life.

Tort reform also is unfair to certain victims that may have difficulty establishing economic loss. An elderly person who dies because of a medical error, for example, is likely to experience the unfair impact of damage caps on special damages. Because a substantial component of economic damages involves future earning, an elderly retired person may not be able to prove much in economic damages. Because of the high cost to litigate medical malpractice cases, the damage cap on general damages (i.e. intangible damages) may mean that no law firm can afford to take the case.

It is important to understand that there are safeguards that protect consumers from so-called "frivolous lawsuits," which are more fair and effective than tort reform. The notion that lawsuits are frivolous is greatly overblown. If a jury does return a verdict that is excessive, the defendant in a malpractice case can appeal that judgment and the court may reduce the amount of the verdict. This is a more appropriate safeguard against the rare cases when juries award excessive damages than a blanket cap that may deny many who are severely injured by clear acts of medical malpractice from obtaining any compensation for their injuries.

If you or someone you love is injured or a loved one dies because of medical malpractice, our Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.


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