Your Rights are Threatened by Limits on Medical Malpractice Recoveries

Every year, 90,000 Americans die because of medical mistakes. Many of the medical mistakes are the result of failing to adhere to simple, standard procedures like the doctor washing their hands, wearing a cap, gown and mask, covering the patient with a full drape and other seemingly simple steps. Despite the high number of Americans that continue to be injured because of medical mistakes, some states have passed caps on jury awards. The issue of tort reform has continued to be a significantly controversial topic between political parties and the medical and legal professions. Medical malpractice lawsuits have been unjustly blamed for spikes in insurance premiums and driving doctors out of practice. Insurance companies, doctors and political groups continue to argue capping jury awards will allow high-risk medical doctors to stay in practice while lowering insurance premiums, but consumer groups and lawyers are pointing to statistics that show otherwise. When comparing states that have passed caps to states that have not, evidence continues to show caps on medical malpractice lawsuits do not result in lower insurance premiums. Average malpractice premiums in states without caps in 2003 were $35,016, compared to an average premium of $40,381 in states with caps in 2003. Instead of protecting consumer rights, the medical malpractice caps further injure those victims most severely affected by medical malpractice, and most insurers continued to increase premiums for doctors regardless of caps, according to the 2003 Weiss Report. Data collected by the non-partisan National Center for the State Courts from 1992 to 2002 shows medical malpractice lawsuits are actually decreasing. The attempts to limit jury awards would only serve to further protect negligent doctors under the claims that runaway juries are helping to drive up insurance premiums. Studies performed by the U.S. Department of Justice show that the median plaintiff award has dropped from $50,000 in the 1990s to $37,000 by 2001. There continues to be no correlation shown between limits on damages awarded by juries and malpractice rates, yet supporters of the measure continues misleading consumers by arguing "frivolous" lawsuits are to blame for high insurance rates and driving doctors out of business. Non-partisan Weiss Ratings concluded insurance premiums rise when the insurance industry must increase the bottom line. Medical malpractice lawsuits allow victims injured because of negligent acts to recover damages and further ensure additional patients are not put at risk for preventable medical mistakes.

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