In 2005, the Illinois legislature enacted an arbitrary $500,000 cap on the total amount of non-economic damages that can be recovered by patients in medical malpractice cases and a $1 million cap in those cases against hospitals. The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that this law was unconstitutional and limited patients’ rights. Those proponents of the legislation were arguing that medical malpractice claims and verdicts were skyrocketing which was driving doctors out of Illinois thereby raising your health care costs. In reality these insurance driven arguments were far from the truth.
First, court records have actually shown that the annual filings of medical malpractice lawsuits in Illinois have steadily decreased before 2005. While medical malpractice filings have gone done, insurance companies have been enjoying record profits. Since 2000, malpractice insurance rates have dramatically increased while the frequency and severity of malpractice claims and payouts have not. Medical malpractice payouts have been on the decline nationwide for years. Insurance rate fluctuations are the result of market conditions, not medical malpractice lawsuits.
Instead of focusing on reducing costs, lawmakers should be focusing on improving patient safety. Medical malpractice is a leading cause of death in America, injuring 180,000 people annually. Additionally, 98,000 people wrongfully die annually from medical error. Preventing medical error is the most effective way to avoid malpractice litigation. If you are the victim of medical error, consult a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer. To read more from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association’s response to tort reform, please click the link.