While Congress distracted the country with the drama of a failed Affordable Care Act repeal vote, lawmakers quietly – and barely – passed HR 1215, the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” on June 28. The bill makes it much harder for victims of medical malpractice to hold health care providers responsible for their negligence.
The bill establishes a strict $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, while dramatically reducing the statute of limitations on claims to just one year. The legislation would also prevent injured parties from filing a lawsuit without an affidavit from a specific medical expert.
According to the Center for Justice and Democracy, a consumer advocacy group, the proposed legislation is “a harsh and mean-spirited bill that will harm the most vulnerable and severely injured Americans.”
“H.R. 1215 would remove state legal protections that have saved patients’ lives for centuries,” Executive Director Joanne Doroshow said in a statement. “It would broadly restrict the constitutional rights of all Americans to go to court while weakening the system’s ability to prevent medical errors and hold reckless hospitals, drug companies and nursing homes accountable.”
Colorado’s Take on Medical Malpractice
Colorado is one of 35 states that imposes some kind of limit on the compensation, available to victims of medical malpractice. Colorado limits noneconomic damages to $300,000. These damages even apply to brain-damaged children who suffer lifelong, debilitating injuries. If you think you’ve been injured because of negligent medical care, you should speak to a Colorado medical injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Tort Reform Takes Rights Away from Malpractice Victims
Since the 1980s, large corporations and lobbyists have been pushing both state and federal lawmakers to curtail the rights of victims in both personal injury and medical malpractice cases. These deep-pocketed special interest groups have fought to limit liability for medical malpractice, curtail punitive and noneconomic damage awards, and eliminate the rules of joint and several liability.
Champions of this so-called tort reform insist that limiting medical malpractice claims will reduce health care costs and halt the practice of defensive medicine, the practice of ordering test or treatments for no viable reasons other than to protect the medical provider from potential litigation.
But the numbers don’t back up the fears. A 2010 Harvard School of Public Health study found that medical malpractice and defensive medicine make up only 2.4 percent of the country’s total health care costs.
While medical malpractice suits – and awards – have been on the decline over the past several years, medical errors are now the third-leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 250,000 fatalities annually.
In addition to compensating medical malpractice victims for damages they’ve suffered, these lawsuits are intended to serve as a deterrent to future negligent behavior. A Northwestern University study took a closer look at states with medical malpractice cap and found that that while “evidence suggests that damage caps substantially reduce both claim rates and payout per claim” they don’t reduce – and in fact they might increase – overall healthcare spending. Medical malpractice reform, these researchers conclude, are great for healthcare providers, but it doesn’t provide a benefit for everyone else.
But the fact remains that this legislation not only superimposes federal will over state law, but it threatens to deprive victims of their Seventh Amendment right to a trial by jury. What’s worse is that this law would impose caps that would only hurt those who’ve suffered the most, including the severely disabled.
If medical negligence has left you seriously injured or ill, you might be eligible to collect compensation for your injuries. Call the Colorado medical malpractice lawyers at Burg Simpson at 303-792-5595 or fill out our CASE EVALUATION FORM today for a free consultation.