The Pillars of Medical Malpractice Reform

As a medical malpractice attorney can explain, medical malpractice insurance premiums increase substantially each year. The increased cost to doctors and hospitals flows to patients through higher health insurance premiums or higher direct payment prices.

Malpractice insurance can cripple a small practice, and may even discourage some from joining the medical field. To protect themselves from lawsuits, many doctors have begun practicing “defensive medicine,” which means ordering more tests than indicated or avoiding risky procedures. Medical malpractice reform is focused on keeping healthcare costs from spiraling out of control while maintaining medical accountability. Specifically, it seeks to either make it more difficult to file a malpractice suit or put a cap on individual awards.

Award Caps

The House of Representatives passed a bill allowing limits on non-economic damages such as compensation for pain and suffering, but it didn’t pass the senate. All 50 states have set their own award limits, ranging from no limit at all, to limits on non-economic damages only, to a single overall limit. Some believe that award limits will help lower malpractice premiums and control healthcare costs. Opponents believe it may prevent medical care providers from being held accountable. 

Legal Hurdles

Malpractice cases are becoming more difficult to litigate, much less to win. This pillar of medical malpractice reform places hurdles between plaintiffs and the courtroom. For example:

  • The minimum standard of care requirement is easy for doctors to meet.
  • The cause of injuries must be proven “more likely than not” to result from medical malpractice.
  • All medical procedures come with risk, and this is usually acknowledged in advance in writing.

These are just some of the reasons a malpractice case may be over before it begins. While these legal hurdles may help limit frivolous lawsuits, they may also prevent plaintiffs from being fairly compensated.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods

Other reform methods, such as the use of mediation or arbitration as an alternative to litigation, have also been put forward as ways to slow the increase of malpractice insurance premiums. They may also help control the overall costs of healthcare by settling cases without a trial.

Putting a cap on damages and making it more difficult to litigate cases may serve to reduce malpractice insurance premiums over time. However, the challenge will be to strike a balance between holding doctors accountable and ensuring that injured patients receive the compensation they deserve. If you have been injured due to medical malpractice, contact a personal injury or malpractice attorney to discuss your options.