Medical malpractice bill gaining momentum

Medical errors in the United States are a serious problem. The presence of this problem was supported by a recent study out of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Researchers with this study found that medical errors are responsible for over 250,000 deaths annually. As such, medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States. These mistakes include a wide range of errors. Examples include everything from an error during surgery to a medication mix-up.

It appears a change is needed. Patients in this country deserve to receive quality medical care, to be free from concerns of mishaps within the hospital. One way we work to achieve this goal is to hold medical professionals accountable whenever they fail to meet expected standards of care. Unfortunately, a proposal currently under consideration by lawmakers would make it much more difficult to continue to hold negligent physicians responsible for their negligence.

What is this proposal?

The proposal, referred to as the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, was introduced in February of 2017. It is touted as an opportunity to address the rising cost of healthcare in the nation and reduce deficits by an estimated $50 billion by 2027. Those in favor of the bill state that this goal will be met by reducing the use of unnecessary tests and lowering the costs of medical liability insurance. Those who oppose the bill state it will result in reduced ability for patients to hold medical professionals responsible for negligence.

Three provisions that will directly impact patients include:

  • Award limits. The law would limit non-economic damage awards to $250,000. This includes damages that are not directly connected to medical bills. Examples include those a jury sees fit to award for pain and suffering, physical impairment, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life and other "nonpecuniary losses of any kind or nature."
  • Instruction limits. The proposal also notes that the jury should not be made aware of the limitation put on non-economic damage awards. This is likely to ensure that a jury does not attempt to provide the victim with adequate compensation by increasing the proposed award in other areas.
  • Time limits. The proposal would also result in a three year statute of limitations. This means that in most cases, those who are injured by negligent medical professionals would have three years to bring forward a claim after the negligent action occurred or one year after the injured patient discovers or should have discovered the injury.

These are just three of the provisions as currently written within this federal proposal.

What is the fate of this proposal?

The proposal is gaining momentum. It recently passed the House and is now headed to the Senate. President Donald Trump was advised to sign the proposal into law if it reaches his desk.

As noted in the three points outlined above, this proposal will impact victims of medical negligence. Even if it passes, remedies for injured patients will remain. Those who are injured while receiving medical care have options and should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss these options and better ensure all legal remedies are preserved.