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The Real Truth About Tort Reform

Tort reform is a term that gets passed around the legal watercooler all of the time. Hospitals, clinics, and their parent medical groups swear that restricting medical malpractice lawsuits, or torts, will be good for both the industry and the patient by cutting out frivolous lawsuits and a myriad of other issues. On the other hand, legal professionals see tort reform as the greatest scheme to benefit large corporations while robbing neglectfully injured patients blind of their right to seek fair compensation. Which side is more in the right?

The Metaphorical Sky is Apparently Falling

Since there is plenty at stake in how tort reform develops, grows, or diminishes, there are plenty of eyes on the topic. One such interested group is the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), a prominent study group that has been at the forefront of research, surveys, and likely conclusions for years. It used teams of doctors and healthcare experts to conduct numerous studies throughout recent years, some relying on more than a decade’s worth of pertinent information, such as emergency room visits across the country, lawsuits filed against negligent medical practitioners, and more.

What the NEJM found, time and again, is that parent companies of the medical industry – as in those who pay out when medical malpractice claims end in the plaintiff’s favor – has largely fabricated the reasoning behind why tort reform is necessary. It appeared that they were crying foul without any reason to do so, other than to protect their own pocketbooks.

Examples of perceived but ultimately nonexistent issues put forth by large medical groups include:

  • Companies claimed that expensive treatments were prescribed more often by doctors afraid to make a mistake. The NEJM discovered that after laws were implemented to strongly defend ER doctors from lawsuits, the number of expensive treatments never went down.
  • Companies argued that out-of-hand lawsuits frequently rewarded plaintiffs multimillion dollar amounts in damages. A separate Department of Justice study determined that the median reward, when all cases and trial types are considered, was just over $500,000.
  • Companies believed that stopping medical malpractice claims would save medical providers money, and that their savings would pass onto the public via lowered insurance premiums. No such cost reduction ever occurred.
  • Companies complained that new doctors were discouraged from entering practice out of fear of lawsuits, and that veteran doctors were already leaving the professional behind or moving to states with protective tort laws. This apparent exodus of doctors has never been recorded.

Tort Reform in the Face of Hospital Dangers

While medical and hospital groups are working hard to get legislation passed that would shield them from medical malpractice lawsuits, claims, and torts, more and more evidence is emerging that shows medical negligence is a larger problem that once perceived. A recent study carried out by The BMJ found that a doctor, surgeon, or other practitioner’s mistake caused around 250,000 deaths in America each year. When considering non-hospital settings, such as small clinics, HealthAffairs more than doubled this calculation.

The harm caused by medical mistakes might not necessarily be more prevalent today than it was decades ago, but rather, our awareness of the issues is rising. Yet, tort reform would make it difficult for victims of medical negligence to get the care and fair compensation they certainly deserve.

If you are interested in learning more about tort reform and how it is impacting both medical and legal industries, you can find an intriguing article about it, published by Forbes, by clicking here. Last year, The Washington Postpublished a research article about deaths caused by medical errors, which you may also want to read by clicking here. If you require a Schenectady medical malpractice attorney for a claim or tort of your own, please feel free to contact DeLorenzo, Grasso & Dalmata for a free case evaluation.