Medical Malpractice Damages Caps Hurt Injured Patients and the Judicial System
Caps on medical malpractice damages put injured patients at risk and protect negligent doctors.
Legislatures in 35 states have enacted medical malpractice caps that target non-economic damages. These are intangible harms – severe pain, physical and emotional distress, disfigurement and loss of quality of life. Some states have put caps on both economic and noneconomic caps, further hurting injured patients.
Supporters of the laws argue that without caps on medical malpractice awards, physicians will stop practicing medicine due to the high cost of medical malpractice premiums.
In fact, increases in medical malpractice insurance premiums is not due to awards to injured patients. In 2004, the nation’s largest medical malpractice insurer – GE Medical Protective Inc. – openly admitted that damage caps actually did nothing to lower physicians’ premiums. The admission came in response to the Texas Department of Insurance questioning why the company planned to raise physicians’ premiums 19 percent six months after Texas enacted caps on medical malpractice damages. In its response, GE Medical Protective stated that “non-economic damages are a small percentage of total losses paid. Capping non-economic damages will show loss savings of 1.0 percent.” In truth, medical malpractice insurance premiums have increased as a result of a lack of competition in the insurance industry, mismanagement of reserves and a decline in investment income.
Caps on medical malpractice damages not only hurt injured patients, they weaken the integrity of our judicial system.
Without the threat of having to answer to our justice system, some physicians will be less likely to make patient safety a priority. Medical malpractice caps protect these doctors. Without the caps, most insurance carriers wouldn’t insure a negligent physician to avoid paying out for future mistakes.
In states where caps on medical malpractice damages have been enacted, injured patients are left without fair compensation. Many are forced to pay for their injuries themselves. When the impact of an injury exceeds the damage cap, patients must rely on government assistance for necessary continued care.
For more information about how plaintiff lawyers are working to protect the rights of injured patients, go the the American Association for Justice website at https://www.justice.org/medical-negligence-role-america%E2%80%99s-civil-justice-system-protecting-patients%E2%80%99-rights-0