In 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down a law imposing a damage cap on non-compensatory damages in medical malpractice cases. Damage caps limit the amount of money that a patient can receive for non-economic losses caused by medical negligence. For example, if a jury determines that a victim has suffered $500,000 in pain and suffering but there is a damage cap of $350,000 in place, the victim cannot receive more than the $350,000.
Damage caps are an infringement on the right of medical malpractice victims to be fully compensated for the injuries and losses that they may suffer due to poor quality medical care. Unfortunately, these caps still exist around the country. Recent evidence suggests that when damage caps are put into place, they not only harm the patient who is unable to recover compensation but they also make the healthcare system worse for everyone.
Medical negligence is a serious problem, with some estimates suggesting 200,000 or more deaths each year because of preventable medical mistakes. Malpractice claims help to ensure that healthcare providers are held accountable in situations where they fail to provide professional care. An experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer can provide assistance to those who wish to take legal action to pursue a claim for compensation after medical negligence occurs.
Tort Reform Can Worsen Healthcare Outcomes
Advocates in favor of capping malpractice damages argue that doing so will help to keep healthcare costs down. The theory is that by limiting the amount that must be paid after a medical mistake occurs, malpractice insurance costs will be lower and the savings will be passed on to consumers of healthcare.
Reality, however, does not match up with this theory. Not only that, but without the threat of an uncapped malpractice payout, providers may not be as careful as they otherwise would be. According to the Huffington Post, four different studies conducted in recent years have undermined the positions put forth by advocates of tort reform and shown how detrimental the impact of damage caps can be.
One study looked at Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs) which are “standard measures of often preventable adverse events.” Patient Safety Indicators were developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and include post-operative mistakes; mistakes during surgery; hospital-acquired infections and birth errors. The research into patient safety indicators found that “patient safety generally falls” when caps are put into place. The decline in patient safety was described as “widespread,” and applied both to aspects of medical care that were likely to lead to malpractice claims as well as to aspects of medical care that were less likely to give rise to a lawsuit.
Another of the studies found that caps on damages could actually increase the cost of healthcare, contrary to popular belief.
Clearly, these studies provide yet more reason to be against any type of cap on damages that could affect patients who have been harmed. Patients who are victims of medical negligence deserve full compensation and should consult with an Atlanta medical malpractice lawyer.
The Atlanta personal injury lawyers at Sammons & Carpenter, P.C. have extensive experience in cases arising from medical negligence. Call today to schedule your free case evaluation if you believe you or a loved one is a victim of medical negligence.