Who Stands to Benefit from “Tort Reform”? Not You – The Patient

By  Karesa M. Rovnan, Esq.

If you could ask for anything from your doctor, hospital or other healthcare provider, what would it be? I can name one thing you should be entitled to without question: patient safety.

Recently, efforts have been made in Congress to pass laws that will limit non-economic damages like pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits across the nation. These efforts at “tort reform” are touted as efforts to increase patient safety. First – what is “tort law”? Tort law simply means a civil wrong. A tort is an act that causes harm to a person. That harm could be financial harm, physical harm or both. The injured person has a right to bring a civil action against the wrongdoer to receive compensation for their harms. When an injured patient brings a lawsuit against a healthcare provider it is referred to as a medical malpractice lawsuit.

One of the primary goals of tort law is to stop future negligent or careless behavior. The question is: Has “tort reform” ever done anything to increase patient safety and prevent medical errors? In 2014, a study by Northwestern University examined the effects of damages caps in several states and concluded that in states which adopted caps on non-economic damages, a broad increase in adverse patient safety events (i.e., negligence) followed.[1] The increases in adverse events ranged from 10 -15%. In other words, when caps on damages were instituted and healthcare providers were not held accountable for the full extent of the damages they caused, the number of patients harmed by medical errors actually increased and patient safety decreased.

The health care industry is controlled by faceless corporations. Independent doctors are a thing of the past. Each time we switch our health insurance, we have to switch doctors. Why? Corporations rule the day in the medical industry. Our health care coverage is connected to the corporations that employ our doctors and those corporations are connected to the corporations that run our hospitals and the corporate insurance industry. The one player in the medical industry who isn’t connected to a corporation is the patient. These medical industry corporations spend millions and millions of dollars lobbying congress to fight patients’ rights to hold health-care providers accountable for the harm they cause when they make choices that result in patient harm.

Richards & Richards’ medical malpractice team chooses to fight on behalf of patients. We believe in promoting and demanding patient safety. All healthcare providers who practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are required to be insured. The law requires healthcare providers to be insured so that when negligent or careless choices are made, patients can be made whole again. If you believe you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, contact a lawyer who could help. Contact Richards & Richards, LLP today by calling 412-261-2620 or contact them online to schedule your case consultation.

[1] Zenon Zabinski and Bernard Black, “The Deterrent Effect of Tort Law: Evidence From Medical Malpractice Reform.” Working Paper 13-09 (Northwestern University Law School, 2014), available at https://business.illinois.edu/nmiller/mhec/Zabinski.pdf.

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