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Tort Reform

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Tort Reform

Tort Reform – Separating Fact From Fiction

Over the past few years the issue of “tort reform” has crept to the forefront of the American political scene. Today, some politicians claim to be racking their brains, attempting to devise a solution to this so-called problem. They have, and will continue to fail to find this solution for one simple reason: you can’t solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Throughout American history, the right to trial by a jury of your peers has been one of the most basic pillars of our democracy. Attempts to undermine this system by instituting caps on damages will only hurt the innocent victims of medical errors. The following is a partial list of a few of the myths that proponents of tort reform are spreading, followed by a few concrete facts that debunk them.

Fiction

  • Capping jury awards for victims of medical negligence will lower medical malpractice insurance premiums for doctors.

Facts

  • According to a 2004 study in the Medical Liability Monitor, states with caps on medical malpractice awards have insurance rates that are on average 9.8% higher than states without caps.
  • The 2003 Weiss Report makes clear that “Most insurers continued to increase premiums [for doctors] at a rapid pace, regardless of caps.”

Fiction

  • Escalating malpractice premiums are driving doctors out of business.

Facts

  • A 2003 general accounting office report that found that “evidence of reduced access to care [fewer doctors] is unsubstantiated and anecdotal at best.”
  • According to the American Medical Association, the number of physicians in D.C. has increased steadily every year between 1996 and 2003.

Fiction

  • Capping claims will raise the quality of medical care in DC.

Facts

  • Health Grades, Inc., conducted a study and found that as many as 195,000 deaths from preventable medical errors occurred annually from 2000-2002.
  • According to the Institute of Medicine (1999) approximately 98,000 deaths occur each year due to preventable medical errors.

Fiction

  • D.C. has more malpractice cases than any state in the country.

Facts

  • Comparing our city to an entire state is invalid. An accurate comparison would be between jury verdicts in D.C. and other metropolitan areas. A more accurate comparison would be D.C. and Baltimore; Baltimore, in fact, has more cases per capita.

Fiction

  • Malpractice claims are on the rise in general.

Facts

  • The annual number of malpractice payments is down. According to a study by Public Citizen, the number of malpractice payments paid on behalf of doctors has dropped from 16,682 in 2001 to 14,441 in 2004.
  • The Facts don’t lie. A jury-based civil justice system free of caps is the only just way for victims of negligence to seek compensation for their injuries. So the next time you hear someone talking about “tort reform,” make sure they understand the facts!