How do you prove your doctor committed medical malpractice? What specific evidence may be used in the case to convince a jury of what happened?
Every case is different, but in general, all of this information is collected by a plaintiff’s attorney via the “discovery” process. As the name implies, discovery is the part of the civil lawsuit process where both sides interview relevant parties (depositions), request access to documents that each side possess, and otherwise gather evidence to be used in a potential trial. It is hard to overestimate the importance of the discovery process. It is often the crux of any medical malpractice lawsuit–where the truth about what happens truly rises to the surface.
Unfortunately, for the same reason that this process is so critical uncovering misconduct, those who are often held responsible for misconduct–large corporations–are working to limit the discovery process.
Proposed Rule Changes As an American Association for Justice (AAJ) story explained last week, there are changes being proposed to the federal rules of civil procedure which would limit discovery and ultimately make it harder to plaintiffs in many cases, including those hinging on medical malpractice or fraud, to obtain access to all the information they need to prove liability.
Last week the Judicial Conference of the United States held hearings about the proposed procedural changes at the federal level. The President of the AAJ testified at the hearing against the change, hopefully convincing decision makers of the harm that the alterations would bring.
Specifically, the proposals call for decreasing the number of depositions allowed and making it harder for plaintiffs to obtain access to documents to prove their cases. Together, these change amount to nothing more than a way for companies to better hide evidence about neglect or intentional misconduct.
The AAJ story notes one area which may be particularly hurt by these discovery changes: recouping money to taxpayers following fraud. As we often discuss, some medical companies engage in illegal practices to boost billings to increase their bottom line. This fraudulent conduct usually only comes to light when a whistleblower comes forward and mountains of information are examined which prove the fraudulent billing. But the new rules would make it far harder (if not impossible) for those documents to be obtained, preventing taxpayers from recovering money from companies that received it illegally.
In explaining the potential impact on liability if these rules are changed, the President of the AAJ noted that, “This will force cases to be decided before all of the facts are found and brought to light. If Americans can’t seek justice in the courtroom, what safety information could corporations hide from the public? If no one is accountable, no one is safe.”
Never forget that the entire purpose of the civil justice system is to get at the truth and provide redress to help those harmed by negligent conduct. The procedural rules which guide the system should reflect that commitment to reaching the ultimate truth–never throwing more roadblocks in the way only to help big companies avoid accountability.
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