I’ve always said that damages caps don’t work. In every State in which medical malpractice “damages caps” have been tried, they’ve failed to resolve the fictional “medical malpractice insurance crisis.” Obviously, you can’t fix something that doesn’t exist. The crisis has been fomented by greedy medical malpractice insurance companies that see a way to exploit Americans’ fears of not having “adequate medical care” by blaming the victims and their attorneys rather than the bad doctors, nurses and hospitals that deserve the focus.
As bad as that’s been, and as bad as it’s going to get with a much “redder” Congress, it’s important to recognize that individuals attempting to validate their medical malpractice rights through a lawsuit already face a tilted playing field and road blocks on their journey to justice. Nowadays, with the effort by medical malpractice insurance companies to lie to the public and lie to legislators, and given that these efforts are in part working, finding an attorney able to litigate a medical malpractice claim for a deserving victim is getting harder than ever.
In South Dakota, for example, laws passed in the 1970’s are preventing injured people from receiving justice in Court. In South Dakota, non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are “capped” at $500,000.00. For someone whose life has been altered or even ruined by medical negligence, that sum of money is a drop in the bucket.
Medical malpractice suits are among the most expensive for a law firm to bring. Setting aside the hundreds of thousands of dollars of attorney, paralegal and associate time that these cases take to litigate and win, the monetary costs for experts and records can rise to the many tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands for the subject law firm. Because attorneys must litigate these cases on a “contingent” basis, where the fee for the firm only comes due in the event of success, the risk for such firms is enormous.
Medical malpractice caps effectively mean that any law firm that takes a medical malpractice case in a jurisdiction where such caps exists is doing so on a “charity” basis, because even if the firm wins the case, the amount of money and time it takes to win is so cost prohibitive that any fee the firm earns is paltry in comparison to the work done.
Mothers who lose the ability to bear children, families of loved ones lost, and individuals who have become permanently disabled as a result of medical negligence face the reality that “caps,” far from being a solution to a non-existent problem, are actually a “lock” on the door of most law firms which might otherwise have been able to help such victims.
Caps are a lie because the medical malpractice insurance “crisis” is a lie. The tragedy is that the insurance companies lie so often, loudly and well, they’ve not only managed to convince the American public that there’s a problem, they’ve also managed to convince doctors and hospitals that the problem exists; the medical health professionals are also victims of this lie; they’ve become unwitting adversaries of their own patients’ interests in quality health care.
That’s some horrible broken glass on the road of the Journey to Justice. No matter whether you voted red or blue in the last election, recognize that your rights and those of your loved ones are always at risk when it comes to medical malpractice “caps” and that there’s no “crisis,” despite the lies and fake statistics you hear. Call your legislators and tell them that you don’t want caps on medical malpractice damages in your state, or at the federal level, regardless of party affiliation. Victims should always have access to the Courts and access to substantial justice decided by a jury of their peers, not by legislators paid by medical malpractice insurance carriers to cast the right votes.