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Senate Reviews Caps on Malpractice Awards

The Senate upheld patients’ rights on Monday when it voted against legislation that would limit jury awards in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Republicans proposed two related malpractice reform bills – both of which failed to garner the required support that would have advanced them to Senate debate. Each bill needed 60 votes, but neither received more than 50.

The first measure sought to cap jury awards for non-economic damages in cases involving individual doctors or health care institutions at $250,000 and at $750,000 in cases involving multiple institutions.

The second bill applied only to malpractice cases involving gynecologists and obstetricians. Doctors in these fields are especially prone to malpractice lawsuits and tend to be subject to higher insurance rates.

Both measures threatened to strip patients of their rights by imposing a “one-size-fits-all” solution on all medical malpractice cases regardless of individual pain and suffering.

Ken Suggs, President of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, called the legislation “unfair” because it limits the victim’s ability to hold negligent parties accountable.

Opponents of the measures argued that the bills were meant solely to protect insurance company interests, not patients’ rights.

“These two bills are put here as a result of the insurance industry,” asserted Harry Reid, Senate Democratic leader. “These measures before the Senate don’t represent a serious attempt to improve health care or the civil justice system in our country.”

Proponents of the bills had argued that skyrocketing jury awards were to blame for rising insurance premiums. They further suggested that high insurance rates are driving doctors out of practice.

However, American Medical Association data has established a 40 percent increase in doctors compared to general population growth of only 18 percent since 1990. Opponents also cited rising insurance premiums as being the result of insurance stock market losses, not medical malpractice claims.

Fortunately, the measures fell far short of the support they needed. Reid described the Republican effort as “a waste of the Senate’s time.”

If you believe yourself or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice contact us.

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