Jackpot Justice Is an Interesting but Erroneous Concept in Medical Malpractice July 20, 2011.
Tort reform is an ugly duckling that harbors the potential to severely harm victims of medical malpractice, by limiting the amount of money they may recover from injury lawsuits.
This hot button issue is making the rounds all across the nation. States wanting to reduce the dollar amount of liability to plaintiffs in cases of medical malpractice. In other words, promoting or passing legislation that protects doctors from being fully accountable for their mistakes.
Imagine if you will a totally disabled woman, confined to a wheelchair as the result of back surgery gone wrong, when her surgeon made a mistake and cut through her spinal cord. Imagine this woman only being able to recover $250,000.00 for her shattered life. How will she pay for her total care for the rest of her life with $250,000? More to the point, the actual award would be less than $250,000, to cover legal and other expenses, which would leave the woman with virtually nothing. And yet, she is a quadriplegic, thanks to a surgeon’s negligence. Is this justice?
If you’re saying "no," then you get the idea of what is behind tort reform. Many say it is a good thing to reduce frivolous lawsuits. As any medical malpractice lawyer with a good number of years of experience will assure you, medical malpractice cases that go to court are anything but frivolous. In many of them, the lives and wellbeing of a severely injured patient hangs in the balance. Could you carry on with your life if you were disabled and had no money, and the doctor who harmed you only paid $250,000, when caring for your disability may run into the millions?
It appears that there is a hint that at least one state. Oregon is re-thinking its position on this controversial move, or at the very least, reconsidering pushing such reform through. Whether that will mean they ultimately do not introduce the bill or not isn’t clear. However, if there is at least a pause from the pell mell rush to doing a deal and some sober second thought, perhaps this will help reinforce the point of the true injustice to the victims by capping med mal damage awards.
Oregon has a history of trying to introduce a bill that would cap non-economic damages and one that would create a panel of experts to review pending malpractice cases. Both of those bills died before they saw the light of day. Unfortunately, there is still the prevailing attitude that if there were such a law in place, it would reduce the costs of defensive medicine and lower the cost of med mal insurance. Of course, there are two sides to these issues and it largely depends on which side you are on, as to which point of view you espouse. Sadly, no one is asking the victims for their thoughts.
At some point, the powers that be will need to carefully listen to those who have been victims of medical malpractice; those whose lives will never be the same again. Why victimize them twice by not allowing them full compensation for their injuries, caused by the negligence of a medical professional?