Throughout the country, healthcare providers and their insurance companies have for years been lobbying their legislators for limits on patients’ rights to sue for medical malpractice. Their arguments are almost always the same. By preventing patients from recovering multi-million dollar insurance settlements and court verdicts:
(1) the cost of medical malpractice can be lowered, and (2) doctors won’t have to practice “preventive medicine” – overprescribing tests and treatment – just to avoid being accused of malpractice. In each case, the result will be higher-quality and lower-cost patient care.
Of course, these arguments ignore the fact that victims of medical malpractice will not be fully compensated for their losses. Nonetheless, the healthcare industry has been successful in convincing many states to adopt measures designed to protect doctors and hospitals against the consequences of their own mistakes.
A Case Study: Wisconsin’s Low Rate of Malpractice Claims
One state where so-called “tort reform” measures have taken hold is Wisconsin. Here, the law protects doctors and hospitals in two primary ways:
- Medical malpractice victims’ non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) are capped at $750,000.
- All claims in excess of $1 million in total damages are paid by the state’s Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund – not by healthcare providers and their insurers.
As noted in a recent article discussing the consequences of tort reform, the laws behind these measures “remove any incentive for doctors, hospitals, and their insurance companies to negotiate a claim.”
In fact, last year, the rate of successful medical malpractice claims in Wisconsin was more than 75 percent below the national average. Just six out of every one million Wisconsin residents received compensation for medical malpractice. Nationally, 27 out of every one million people in America filed successful medical malpractice claims in 2014.
Connecticut Does NOT Have a Cap on Medical Malpractice Damages
Fortunately for residents of Connecticut, the Constitution State is one of a handful of states nationwide that has not yet imposed a cap on medical malpractice damages. This means that patients who are suffering as a result of medical negligence can seek full compensation for their losses. Perhaps more importantly, it also means that doctors and hospitals in Connecticut still have the financial incentive to provide safe and appropriate care.
Yet, numerous Connecticut residents still fall victim to medical malpractice every year. According to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), Connecticut’s rate of malpractice over the last 10 years is relatively high when compared with other states nationwide. As a result, Connecticut residents should remain vigilant about monitoring the quality of their healthcare, and should not hesitate to take action to enforce their legal rights.