You hear about tort reform on the nightly news, as Republicans talk about the need for tort reform, and how tort reform should be at the centerpiece of any health care legislation. Those for tort reform talk about the excessive fees that…
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Florida is just one of these states.
In 2003, Florida passed a comprehensive reform of its medical malpractice laws. (Dobrinsky 2009). For instance, Florida Statute § 766.118(2)(a) limits medical malpractice “non-economic” damages to $500,000 per claimant. Fl. St. § 766.118(2)(a). Non-economic damages include such damages as pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, physical impairment, inconvenience, loss of companionship, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of consortium. Fl. St. § 766.202(8). Moreover, attorney’s fees are capped at 30% for the first $250,000 of any medical malpractice award, and only 10% of all damages in excess of $250,000. The amount that an attorney can collect is over and above the “reasonable and customary costs” that the attorney incurs. Fl. R. Pro. Conduct 4-1.5(f)(4)(B)(iii)(a).
Those in favor of such reforms state that these reforms are necessary because the costs of medical malpractice judgments drive up the cost of health care, which in turn threatens economic growth. (Johnson 3). Liability judgments drive up health care because malpractice insurers bear the brunt of the burden, and they pass their costs onto the doctors in the form of increased premiums. Doctors, in turn, pass their costs of the higher premiums onto the public. (Johnson 3). Physicians also might leave a state that has high malpractice insurance rates, which reduces the availability of health care. (Johnson 3). Before the 2003 legislation passed, Florida was declared a “disaster area” by the American Medical Association, due to doctors leaving the state or closing their practices due to high malpractice insurance and insurance companies willing to underwrite dwindling from a high of sixty-six to twelve. (Johnson 3).
Those against tort reform insist that it is a tempest in a teapot. In other words, the costs of medical malpractice claims
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