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States Continue to Pass Misguided “Tort Reform” Laws

Several states have had various “tort reform” proposals in place for many years now. This has allowed academics to conduct different studies which examine the effect of these laws on many variables: healthcare costs, doctor retention levels, patient safety, and more. Unsurprisingly, these research efforts have almost all revealed the same things. After passing these laws health care costs do not decrease, insurance rates do not go down, doctors are not better retained, and patient safety is not improved (in some cases it is made worse).

Sadly, even with this growing pile of information about the real effects of these laws, some powerful interest groups continue to push through these efforts in states across the country. It is a seemingly never-ending political battle that requires consistent push-back to protect the rights of injury victims and community members of all stripes.

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Our neighboring state to the north, Michigan, for example, recently passed a piece of dangerous legislation that further erodes the rights of community members in the state to hold negligent professionals fully responsible for the consequences of their actions. It represents an unfortunate reminder of the continuing need to stand up for patient’s rights.

As reported by various outlets, the state’s governor recently signed legislation that will further insulate powerful medical interests and insurance companies from being held fully responsible for the consequences of their errors. The piece of legislation was introduced by the state’s medical society and pushed by the largest med mal insurer.

The measure does several things. For one, it lumps loss of society and companionship into the noneconomic damages category and requires it be locked in with damage cap laws that were previously passed in the states. In other words, it limits the amount of compensation that a wife, husband, or child might receive as a result of losing their relative due to medical malpractice. There are also now strict time limits on when survivors can file suit for possible errors that led to their relative’s passing. Additionally, the new law bars prejudgment interest on certain damages, like attorney’s fees and court costs. This means that defendants have less to lose by stalling and delaying a case, because interest payments for that delay will be lower.

Predictably, those pushing this measure argue that it is only meant to prevent “frivolous” suits from going to court. Further they claim that it will limit the use of “defensive” medicine which may lower healthcare costs. One proponent even suggested that healthcare costs might be lower by a staggering 20% as a result of these laws and the elimination of defensive medicine.

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No doubt those claims of financial savings spurred many to support this bill. But, as we have pointed out time and time again, those claims are nothing more than pipe dreams. There is simply zero evidence of the fact that limiting patient rights in these ways lowers helath care costs or insurance costs. The only winner are chronic defendants and insurance companies.

The medical malpractice attorneys at our firm are saddened to hear of the slow erosion of rights. Be sure to educate yourself, friends, and family members about the real consequences of these laws to ensure we can fight them if they are introduced in Illinois.

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