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Tort Law - Tort Reform Initiatives

medical insurance damages companies

The damages recovered by those injured as a result of a tortious act of another are often paid for by insurance companies. This is particularly true in MEDICAL MALPRACTICE cases. Doctors must pay significant medical liability insurance premiums in order to stay in business. When a doctor commits MALPRACTICE, the patient may receive an award of hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars. As insurance companies continue to pay these hefty awards, the rates for insurance premiums often rise sharply.

The medical profession and medical liability insurance companies have engaged in a nationwide campaign to place limitations on the amount of damages that a patient who has been subject to medical malpractice can recover. Under the guise of "tort reform," supporters advocate placing limitations on the recovery of noneconomic damages, including pain and suffering and loss of consortium. In 1975, California enacted the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, which limits recovery of noneconomic damages at $250,000 and restricts the amount of fees that may be recovered by lawyers. California's law has served as a model for six other states that have adopted similar tort-reform bills. Other state legislatures have considered similar tort-reform initiatives.

President GEORGE W. BUSH has advocated federal legislation that would place a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages at the national level. According to Bush, the federal government spends $28 billion per year on medical liability insurance costs and defensive medical costs. Opponents of such a measure claim that many of the problems associated with insurance costs are the result of poor business practices by insurance companies. Opponents also maintain that capping damages for pain and suffering restricts the ability of patients to recover only an ARBITRARY amount from a negligent doctor. Supporters of the initiative claim that capping damages will lower medical costs to the general population.

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