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Republican Bill Slashes Rights of Medical Malpractice Victims

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

The severe consequences of medical errors have come with an enormous cost. The British Medical Journal reported that medical error is the third leading cause of deaths in the U.S., claiming upwards to 251,454 lives yearly. This is why the right for medical malpractice victims to sue is crucial. Victims of these medical errors deserve an opportunity to seek legal action and be compensated for their suffering.

However, a recent bill introduced by Republican representatives seeks to severely limit the rights of medical malpractice victims. As part of Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, this bill would “reduce unnecessary medical tests” and reduce the pressure of medical malpractice lawsuits through a series of new restrictions.

The most problematic of these restrictions is the proposed $250,000 cap for non-economic damages, even in states that do not implement caps. Non-economic damages cover the past and future pain and suffering victims may face as result of their injuries. In addition, this bill would also limit a victim’s right to contract an attorney. The proposed legislation goes as far as to limit an attorney’s contingency fees.

Furthermore, this bill will replace various state laws with new federal requirements that would be detrimental to malpractice victims. For instance, the bill would repeal state joint and several liability laws. This means victims would have to pay for their injury costs if one of the defendants was found unable to do so.

To make matters worse, this act would also repeal state collateral source rules and make it possible for the defendant to reduce their obligatory compensation based on how much disability and workers’ compensation the victims receive. In addition, this act would also protect nursing homes, hospitals, or healthcare providers by prohibiting them from being included in suits against unsafe drugs, even if they negligently provided or administered the drugs.

Overall, the so-called Protecting Access to Care Act is just another Republican “Protecting Big Donors” Act. While it intends to lower healthcare costs, it actually provides blanket immunity to those who are at fault. Though the supporters of this bill claim it will result in a reduction in deficit costs in the long term, the immediate impact of this bill will be patients not receiving adequate compensation and a reduction in liability for physicians.

Furthermore, the people who would be most hurt by the non-economic caps would be low-wage earners who would be less able to establish economic loss. Essentially, this act is meant to punish victims of medical malpractice rather than help them. Republicans argue that the looming threat of malpractice suits results in doctors performing extra medical tests and raising healthcare costs. However, the solution should not be to strip victims from their right to hold healthcare providers and institutions accountable for their negligence.

A majority of medical errors go unreported. If you or a loved has experienced medical malpractice, do not it let it go unreported. It is advised that you seek legal counsel to ensure the guilty party is held accountable and you receive proper compensation for your suffering.

Contact us at Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP if you need legal help.

Author: Giselle Cornejo

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