Tort reform has been an issue that has been bubbling in many states since the 1990s. Some states have had disastrous results with unintended consequences. Some have had better results. Personal injury attorneys have taken sides for and against this issue, however, this issue is not really so black and white.
One major impetus behind the push for tort reform is due to the supply of doctors. Lawmakers have told the public that unless reforms are implemented they may not receive the standard of healthcare to which they are accustomed because doctors will move to states where laws are more friendly, ultimately resulting in doctors making more money and living better lives. Changes rapidly started coming as Americans feared third world medical care.
There are several states that are noted for their extreme measures in tort reform. One state that recently instituted such reform is Texas. In Texas, medical malpractice reforms began in 2003. At this point medical malpractice insurance was skyrocketing due to increased personal injury litigation, and awards were reaching record highs. It was reported that doctors were either leaving the state or choosing less litigious practices, leaving a gap in essential medical practices such as emergency medicine and cardiology. Seemingly as a result, Texas had among the lowest number of doctors per capita in the United States. In response to these alarming statistics, the legislature capped non-economic damages at $250,000 per defendant with a total of $750,000. But it didn’t stop there. Texas also passed legislation requiring an expert witness to be produced to support the claims within four months of filing or the plaintiff must drop the case. The results were favorable. Medical malpractice carriers reduced their rates and it was reported that thousands of new doctors arrived in areas where there were previously a low supply. Not surprisingly, these changes have been hailed as a testament to the common-sense Texas approach to improving the lives of its residents.
But is it true? Numerous academic studies have been performed measuring the numbers of doctors before and after the reform. The studies have found no measurable change in the number of doctors before and after the reform. These results apply to all areas of medical practice, including the high risk ones that were claimed to be losing doctors. Their studies have found that Texas has always had a low number of physicians per capita and that the recent growth of the Texas economy is a better explanation for the per capita rise in physicians, which began to increase before the reforms took place.
Ultimately, tort reform is neither inherently good nor bad. It is up to each state to decide what results it seeks and a reasonable means to achieve them.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you were injured in an accident call one of our attorneys at David K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.1800askalawyer.com.