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Lawmakers Shouldn't Cap Medical Malpractice Suit Damages

The surging cost of healthcare has been a hot topic in political discussion spheres, with everybody seemingly having their own idea for how to fix both treatment prices and insurance premiums that continue to rise rapidly. Numerous politicians have fixated on the litigious nature of medical practices, citing extremely high medical malpractice insurance premiums as one of the reasons doctors and hospitals must raise their prices in order continue to operate profitably.

Some politicians have taken aim at the medical malpractice as a way of bringing the overall costs of treatment down, citing large verdicts from greedy and overly-litigious patients driving up the cost of medical malpractice insurance for doctors everywhere. Higher insurance costs are then passed on to patients and insurance companies. So to combat this, lawmakers have proposed placing a cap on “pain and suffering” as well as other non-economic damages awarded to medical malpractice victims; the cap came a step closer to reality when H.R. 1215 recently passed the House of Representatives by a narrow eight-vote margin.

What many lawmakers who voted for H.R. 1215 don’t realize is this could put the common citizen in a vulnerable position, preventing them from being able to hold doctors and medical facilities accountable for their severely debilitating mistakes. Under H.R. 1215, which is titled the “Protecting Access to Care Act,” medical malpractice victims would only be allowed to collect up to $250,000 in pain and suffering damages, which could be grossly inadequate to cover the actual amount of pain and suffering a victim sustains as a result of their medical professional’s negligence or ineptitude.

In an editorial for The Hill, Paul Bland discussed the case of Kathleen Astleford, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. The physician she was referred to for treatment performed 26 radiation treatments on the wrong side of her tonsils, missing the cancer completely. As a result, she not only needed to be subjected to a dangerous number of treatments, but eventually needed invasive surgery, lost part of her tongue, and can no longer swallow properly.

Bland writes: “The pain and suffering Astleford endured was, to put it mildly, was almost unimaginable. And while she has filed suit against Delta Medix and Dr. Turrisi, a bill recently passed by the U.S. House and now making its way towards the Senate, would add insult to her injuries — and to countless other patients who have suffered medical malpractice — by placing a limit on how much they can recover, no matter how outrageous or invasive their mistreatment might have been.”

The Impact to Your Case

If H.R. 1215 move forward and be passed through the Senate and signed into law, how would your case be impacted? For starters, your ability to recover a large settlement or verdict and obtain the justice you truly deserve would be greatly impacted. The bill specifically targets “non-economic” damages, which include anything that can’t be directly quantified as having a direct financial cost. Economic damages include things like your medical bills, treatment costs, lost income from missed work, and other expenses which you can pretty much calculate out exactly and support with evidence like pay stubs and invoices.

Non-economic damages are different in that there is no invoice or way to calculate the exact cost of your pain when you are hurt by a medical professional’s negligence. Pain and suffering have long been accepted as a reasonable reason to obtain compensation after an injury, but a “reasonable” amount has long been up for debate. Bereavement, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, mental damage, and more are all types of non-economic damages. However, how much are these non-quantifiable factors worth in financial terms?

While there’s no denying the fact that some patients have been predatory about their demands in a medical malpractice claim, the vast majority of patients who file suits against doctors do so when they have suffered serious negative health consequences as a result of this negligence. H.R. 1215 would prevent these individuals from obtaining the justice they deserve after they have suffered horribly painful injuries due to medical mistakes, and would essentially tie a jury’s hands when it comes to verdicts, essentially rendering them useless since the value would not go beyond this economic damages + $250,000 amount.

For anyone reading this who is concerned about defending their rights as a patient, we strongly advise reaching out to your local and state representatives in Washington and telling them you oppose H.R. 1215, and believe it would seriously impact your right to seek justice as a patient if you were to suffer from medical malpractice. As Louisiana medical malpractice attorneys, we fight to help victims like you seek the justice you deserve, and we will continue to do so as well as support the fight against this bill which could restrict your rights.

Call Anderson & Boutwell today at (985) 796-2245 and put more than 60 years of collective experience on your side if you have been injured in a medical malpractice incident. Start with a free consultation today!