Unintended Consequences of Medical Malpractice Caps?

Posted By Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci || 4-Feb-2015

It wasn't that long ago that we here in Missouri had a cap on compensation for damages in medical malpractice cases. You undoubtedly recall that our state's Supreme Court struck down the cap in 2012.

Unfortunately, there have since then been multiple attempts to reinstate the caps that benefited big insurance corporations at the expense of patients who had suffered harm at the hands of negligent doctors.

We recently read an article on some of the unintended consequences (at least we hope the consequences are unintended) of a similar cap in South Dakota. The bottom line is that because the cost of bringing a medical malpractice case can be high -- and that cost is often borne initially by the attorneys fighting on behalf of the injured patient -- it is now nearly impossible for someone in South Dakota injured by doctor or hospital negligence to get a lawsuit to court.

Lawyers simply can't recoup their massive expensives with a hard cap of $500,000 on damages in that state. They cannot afford to work with the high-priced experts who testify at trials in support of the injured party.

According to the Insurance Journal, "Lawyers who handle medical malpractice cases say they are turning away people who were victims of egregious medical mistakes."

The law putting the cap in place was enacted in 1976. It doesn't include an inflation adjustment. If it did, the cap would today be around $2 million.

So the attorneys today simply can't afford to represent clients who have suffered harm because they stand to lose enormous sums of money in the cases. "The cost is just too high," one long-time attorney said.

Is it an intended or unintended consequence of medical malpractice caps? It probably doesn't make a significant difference to those unfortunate people who have suffered serious damages because a doctor or hospital was negligent in surgeries, diagnosis, administration of medications and so on. Let's make sure Missouri never goes backwards on this important medical and legal safeguard.

Categories: Medical Malpractice