Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers previously discussed proposed legislation in New Hampshire related to medical malpractice lawsuits. This is the latest attempt by various groups to take away rights of those hurt by medical negligence. It represents a more underhanded, but just as dangerous attempt to insulate those who act inappropriately from being held fully accountable in the judicial system.
The law essentially creates a separate “early offer” system as an alternative to resolve medical negligence disputes. The idea is that those hurt give up legal rights in exchange for an “early” settlement offer. The law passed the state legislature, but it was vetoed by the Governor. Unfortunately, the legislature recently overrode the veto, meaning that it will take effect in the state soon.
Even a recent editorial in the Union-Leader, not a famous opponent of tort reform laws, reminds readers of the dangers of the early-offer system . Obviously everyone is supportive of changes that make the dispute resolution system quicker and more efficient. But those goals cannot come with sacrificing the underlying principle of fairness in the process. Yet, that is the main problem with the early offer system. Our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers know that, as with all tort reform measures, the law actually stacks the deck against the patient and gives medical care providers many more advantages.
The Early Offer Law
For example, under this rule, a patient has the option of joining the “early offer” system. However, by so doing the patient is giving up various legal rights and severely compromises his right to get fair redress following the harm. Most importantly, the patient is not required to take the settlement offer, but if they reject the offer they have many legal hurdles to jump through–the hurdles will often be insurmountable.
What are those hurdles?
According to the editorial, the patient would be required to post a bond equal to the expected legal costs of the hospital. That means the one hurt would have to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars before even being able to seek access to the court. In addition, even if the patient wins in a subsequent suit, he may be forced to pay some hospital’s legal fees and costs if he does not win more than 125% of the original offer.
Taken together, all of this represents serious impairments to injured patients who join this system. Once in the system the settlement offer can be lowballed, with serious impairments in their ability to seek alternative recourse.
Quite frankly, there is little reason why any injured patient would want to actually enter this “early offer” system. It is unclear how any competent medical malpractice attorney would recommend the patient take this route.
However, many are likely to be convinced to do so without receiving full, impartial legal advice. The decision to enter the system will likely come early on, before the patient has the ability to understand the full repercussions of the injury or be made aware of the consequences of the law. Sadly, once in the system there will be little that can be done to help the patient. In that way this law represents yet another misguided attempt to make medical providers pay less when errors are made under the false assumption that doing so will lower healthcare costs. It won’t.
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