After Obama’s surprising statement that he believes that tort reform should be included in health care reform, many are discussing the pros and cons of tort reform. Additionally, there are different programs under way in several states that could provide a template for addressing medical-malpractice abuses. One encourages doctors to disclose medical errors early and apologize, when appropriate. The hope is to address hospitals’ reluctance to disclose medical mistakes for fear of being sued. It encourages hospitals and patients to enter mediation. Another initiative, adopted by lawmakers in Illinois, requires plaintiffs’ lawyers to have their cases vetted by physicians before filing them. This is designed to weed out frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits while giving the truly injured an avenue to the courts. The attorneys must retain medical experts who have practiced in the same specialty area as the physicians accused of malpractice. Then the experts must file declarations, often called certificates of merit, that the injured parties have a reasonable basis to file the lawsuit.
While the certificates can cost $5,000 or more to produce, they are very helpful in the area of malpractice. Chicago medical malpractice lawyer Steven Levin was quoted on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog as stating, “A certificate is a useful tool for any lawyer who would stupidly undertake to prosecute a medical malpractice case without having it reviewed by a competent doctor in the field.” Steve Levin believes that the certificates of merit can weed out more marginal claims. To read more about certificates of merits in the WSJ’s coverage of medical malpractice reform, please click the link.