It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you cap medical malpractice damages, the victim is hurt twice.
Americans have been discussing the tort reform debate for a number of years, and, as always, it is a debate that infuriates many. There are those in favor of tort reform and those against it. The main thing is this – if you are involved in a personal injury case that leaves you with catastrophic injuries and you need medical care for the rest of your life, you suddenly understand how important it is that damages are not capped. In other words, if you expect to be able to pay for your care, you better hope the state you live in does not have a medical malpractice cap.
Is this a simple issue? No. Is it an issue that is unfair to the victims of medical malpractice? Yes. Victims of medical malpractice get hurt twice – once by the doctor, and the second time by the justice system. What possible rationale can there be for the justice system to go along with politicians and rubber stamp a damage cap that, in essence, tells a victim to shut up and live with their injuries because the justice system will not award them any more than they have to according to which cap is in place in a state.
Unfortunately, it is all about money and politics, which is actually the same thing. Supposedly, tort reform saves money on insurance premiums for doctors and reduces the amount of money paid out on insurance claims. See the picture here? Who wants to save money? The insurance companies. They do not care if someone is so severely injured by a doctor that they need lifelong care, so long as they can deny, dismiss or diminish a claim. And what does the victim do? Face the rest of their life, which may have become a living hell, trying to handle their medical care and wondering how to pay for it.
Just to make a point here, it is big insurance money that is pounding into people’s minds that verdicts are too big. They try to outshine in the debate so that every juror thinks an injury victim is trying to take advantage of the system. What happens is that regular, hard working and truthful injury victims could get shortchanged. Leave it to the jurors to decide on an award. There is no need to place a cap if we trust the wisdom of the jurors. They oftentimes have a much better sense of justice than the politicians.
The bottom line? Medical malpractice caps do very little in the way of making health care more affordable. The truth is victims are not getting the compensation they need, and a doctor’s liability is reduced, as they do not face a high premium for negligence. Put another way, doctors can practice and commit medical malpractice with little accountability for their actions.
Another truth that many people do not realize is that the risk of a medical malpractice lawsuit is already taken into account in the existing malpractice insurance system. Doctors are rated on an experience ranking scale that calculates how much of a premium they need to pay. This means less risky doctors pay lower premiums.
Medical malpractice caps get rid of incentives for insurance companies to deal with this issue in a realistic manner, meaning they do not have to pay out what a lawsuit may actually be worth based on the level of negligence involved in a case. What is wrong with that picture? Plaintiffs are getting the short end of the stick because insurance companies want to save money and politicians want to keep the insurance industry voting for them. Whatever happened to the concept of taking responsibility for mistakes? It seems to have died an ugly death when it comes to medical malpractice.
Charlie Donahue is a New Hampshire personal injury lawyer located in Keene. Donahue handles injury cases in New Hampshire and across the United States. To learn more about New Hampshire injury attorney, Charlie Donahue, visit Donahuelawfirm.com.