Imagine a family member suffers severe injuries or death as a result of medical negligence, and then you find out that your state has a law which limits the amount of damages that you can legally recover? More than one-half of states have “tort reform” measures which put a limit on the compensation sought by victims of medical negligence. The rationale: limiting victims’ right to recover damages will reduce health care costs for the rest of us. However, numerous studies have debunked the usefulness of “caps on damages”.
Tort reform is one of the most debated and publicized issues, as it relates to the rising costs of medical malpractice. Most recently, a study led by Michael B. Rothberg of the Cleveland Clinic found that tort reform does not reduce health care costs in any meaningful way. Dr. Rothberg’s study measured how much doctors practice allegedly “defensive medicine” (i.e. the overuse of tests and procedures because of fear of malpractice litigation.) The results of the study proved that defensive medicine is virtually non-existent and does not reduce health care costs for the public.
Who then is benefitting from tort reform laws? The answer: big insurance companies. Why? Because it’s a means for them to make a profit. By charging doctors and hospitals insurance premiums, and then limiting the maximum amount they can be forced to pay out, insurers can pocket the difference.
Dr. Rothberg’s study is yet another example of the many findings through the years that confirm there is no valid reason for laws which arbitrarily limit your right to recover damages following medical negligence. In Rhode Island, there are no such caps on medical damages. I, along with my fellow attorneys at Providence-based Decof, Decof & Barry (www.decof.com), believe that Dr. Rothberg’s study proves once again that Rhode Island law is appropriate.