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Economist Summarizes Harm of Medical Malpractice Damage Caps

A birth injury lawsuit is essentially a subset of medical malpractice lawsuits. In the majority of cases where another party is found liable for causing or contributing to the birth injury that party is a medical professional who did not provide a reasonable standard of care. Therefore when tort reform advocates argue for changes to the medical malpractice system, birth injury victim advocates should stand strong in opposition. It is important for advocates to be well versed in the debate to have logical points to rebut those who seek to mislead others about the need for changes to the tort system.

One good starting point is a comprehensive primer published by an author at the Cato Institute. An economist professor published the policy analysis asking the question, “Could Mandatory Caps on Medical Malpractice Damages Harm Consumers?” The author explains that a key argument of many tort reformers is that capping awards will lead to reduced medical costs. While this arguments works well in political debates, it is much more questionable when examined closely. Beyond that questionable claim, tort reformer also fail to take into account the effects that caps would have on the victims of medical malpractice. They also do not consider the effects of the lost incentives that lawsuits have to ensure high quality care.

The Cato Institute paper looks at all available data and finds that malpractice awards actually do track the extent of damages. In other words, in general the amount of damages awarded is usually reflected by the extent of injuries that the malpractice caused the victims. Settlement amounts and jury awards are not arbitrary numbers without connection to harm, as some critics maintain.

In addition, the study author provides evidence that these lawsuits play an important role in overall patient safety. This is the case primarily in ways that insurance companies use tools to reduce patient injury depending on the perceived risk of medical providers. In addition, insurance industry physician rating systems ensure that errant doctors are limited in the harm they can cause those in their care. Liability insurers work in a variety of ways to provide incentives to doctors who make the fewest errors. This includes providing information of risk management efforts and closely monitoring practitioners that are providing new services where risk is uncertain. For the most consistently dangerous practitioners, insurance carriers may even cut off coverage completely. This essentially limits the doctor’s affiliation with most health organization, limiting overall patient risk exposure. Medical malpractice damage caps that essentially shield insurance companies and doctors from liability would render all of these incentives moot. They are likely to fall by the wayside, making patients less safe in the process.

Each Chicago birth injury attorney at our firm is proud to stand with victims of medical negligence. It remains unnecessary, unfair, and dangerous for policy to be changed which takes away rights from those who hold their wrongdoers accountable for errors. The justice system, with the jury at the center, has forever been a source of national strength and that system should not be tampered with.

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