DO-IT-YOURSELF TORT REFORM
July 13, 2007
At any given moment in the United States, approximately 60,000 medical malpractice suits are being tried, many involving multiple physician-defendants. And once a physician experiences the legal system, it can scar him permanently say Dr. Jeffrey Segal, a neurosurgeon, and founder and CEO of Medical Justice Services, and Michael Sacopulos, its general counsel.
It's not hard to see why:
- While some states have enacted reforms which limit certain types of damages to plaintiffs, this has done little to stem the tide of frivolous lawsuits.
- In California -- the tort reform poster child -- an obstetrician will pay $30,000 to $50,000 annually in liability premiums, compared to the $170,000 obstetricians might pay in certain areas of New York.
- Yet doctors are actually sued more often in California than in other states, in part because tort lawyers have sought to compensate for decreased payments by pursuing a greater number of claims.
Fortunately, groups like Medical Justice -- a membership-based organization designed to head off frivolous lawsuits -- are helping stem the tide. Medical Justice has two principal components:
- First, exposing the quality, or lack thereof, of so-called expert-witness testimony; behind every frivolous lawsuit there is an "expert" -- often compensated to the tune of $10,000 dollars a day.
- The second tool is a patient-physician contract which says in a legitimate dispute, both sides will utilize only reputable and accountable experts who belong to such societies and who strictly follow their code of ethics.
Does it work? Yes. Medical Justice plan members are sued at a rate of under just 2 percent a year. The average doctor is sued at a rate of 8 percent to12 percent per year. And the company is top heavy with physicians in "high-risk" specialties.
Source: Jeffrey Segal and Michael Sacopulos, "Do-It-Yourself Tort Reform," Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2007.
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