Nashville Med Mal Attorney Reviews the Controversy
Tennessee doctors, fearing the courts may strike down a 2011 law capping jury awards in medical malpractice lawsuits for non-economic damages of $750,000, are lobbying lawmakers to protect the statute by amending the state’s constitution. If legislators comply with these demands, medical malpractice victims may suffer further as the compensation they deserve could be drastically reduced.
The Tennessee Medical Association is asking legislators to put before voters new constitutional language clarifying that the General Assembly has authority to set caps on noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, in medical malpractice cases.
The association’s goal is to persuade lawmakers to approve the amendment this year, and then getting their successors in the 110th General Assembly to pass it by a two-thirds majority. If it wins approval, it would go on the 2018 ballot for voters to decide.
Is There an Alternative to Damage Caps for Medical Malpractice?
The nonprofit advocacy group, Patients for Fair Compensation, has a different idea that damage caps. The group is calling on lawmakers to remove malpractice suits out of the courts entirely and put them under a new Patients’ Compensation System.
Patients for Fair Compensation says its proposal is similar to the workers’ compensation system for helping injured workers. It would create an independent panel – appointed by the governor, as well as the House and Senate speakers – which would retain physicians to serve on panels. The panel would affix specific costs on physician errors in treating patients.
Are Medical Malpractice Damage Caps Harmful to Patients?
The idea that frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits are clogging up the judicial system and driving doctors out of state is untrue. To even file a malpractice lawsuit, the injured person and his or her attorney must first have the medical records examined by an expert, who must file an affidavit under oath that the patient has been injured due to negligence. These types of lawsuits are aggressively defended by the insurance companies who represent the doctors or hospitals—frivolous lawsuits do not stand a chance in court.
Our personal injury law firm sees the other side to this argument: people who have been seriously injured or killed due to negligent medical practices who are left with steep hospital bills, the inability to work to support their families, extreme grief when a loved one has died, and ongoing pain and suffering.
It is our hope that the legislature and the people of Tennessee keep the victims of medical malpractice, and their families, in mind when voting or acting on legislation that may leave these families without sufficient recourse. A judge or jury, after scrutinizing at all the facts of a specific case, should be who decides the amount of damages that are warranted to a victim of medical malpractice. Having the legislature preemptively take away this important job of judges and juries takes away the rights of the people of Tennessee to a fair and impartial civil trial.