By Matt Gracey
The Florida legislature will decide this year about a new proposal from a group in Georgia that is trying to eliminate the tort system for medical-malpractice cases. They propose to create what they describe as a system similar to but operationally different than our workers’ compensation system. They are luring doctors into their plan by stressing that doctors will no longer be sued, will not have any personal liability, and will pay roughly the same amount into the system as they pay in malpractice-insurance costs today. They claim that the system will reward injured patients more fairly and quickly, with more dollars going to them instead of to lawyers and insurance companies. No one can argue that those goals are great ones. The problem is that their proposed system’s success is based on multiple faulty assumptions and flawed numbers.
A number of studies conclude that less than one percent of malpractice cases are now reported and paid in our present system. The new proposal estimates that there will be a 67% increase in reported claims. Some experts predict that under the proposed system, in which claim payments will be much easier to obtain for patients, the claims frequency could actually go 10-20 times the present amount as the word gets out among plaintiffs and their attorneys how easy it is to collect. To make matters worse, I believe that many cases of “maloccurrence,” not malpractice, could be filed under this new system, which also proposes to cap not just non-economic damages but economic damages too. This will never stand up to judicial scrutiny in a state where many predict our non-economic caps will be held to be unconstitutional shortly.
We should also be informed of exactly what role those proposing this system want to play in it and what fees they are proposing to collect.
In short, all of us are well advised to be very careful to help educate each other and our elected officials about the dangers of implementing such a new radical system until thorough, non-partisan studies have been made on the lasting effects of its implementation, because once such a system is started we could all be stuck with it for decades.