Tort Reform Fails in Texas

Tort reform is not what it is cracked up to be. Big insurance and big government do not want to get this concept, and victims continue to be abused by the system.

There is so much campaign rhetoric polluting the airwaves that it is hard to get the straight facts. Tort reform, otherwise known as medical malpractice caps, is a definite heated issue with injured victims and personal injury lawyers. Lawyers have continued to point out that putting medical malpractice caps in place only hurts the victim twice and leaves them struggling to deal with their ruined lives and unable to pay their medical bills.

Finally, a national report, which just came out, reveals that the 2003 Texas law responsible for capping medical malpractice damage awards has prompted a significant hike in health care spending, and has not seen an increase in physicians in the state; contrary to what Governor Perry has said on the campaign trail. Perry has stated on several occasions that the medical malpractice law added 21,000 physicians to the state. It has not.

The report, authored by Public Citizen, is called “A Failed Experiment”, and it clearly says that using the model Texas passed as law would only benefit insurers and doctors, not injured victims. This is not shocking news to personal injury lawyers, wrongful death lawyers or medical malpractice lawyers. The instant a damage cap was mentioned as being a way to cut the high costs of insurance premiums, cut health care costs and save money, attorneys have been insisting that would not happen. They are right.

What happens is that medical malpractice victims get worked over twice. Once by their physician or another medical professional, by sustaining a serious or deadly injury, and the second time by a law drafted to help insurance companies make more money, while politicians keep votes from the medical profession. Make no mistake, the medical malpractice caps are not about justice for innocent medical negligence victims.

What politician or doctor in their right mind would be against taking responsibility for a serious medical error that forever changed the life of a patient who trusted their doctor to care for them? Apparently, there are a great number of politicians and doctors, not to mention insurance companies that think it is perfectly acceptable to limit the damage award to a victim, so they may save money. What that says about the concept of justice is frightening.

Just what is a victim whose life has been so drastically altered by medical negligence supposed to do when faced with enormous medical bills incurred through no fault of their own? Someone needs to take responsibility, and that someone needs to be the doctor and the insurance companies.

The Texas Medical Association and Texas Alliance for Patient Access are not happy with the report, and dispute its conclusions about the number of doctors who came to the state. In fact, the Alliance insists doctors left the state like lemmings and malpractice insurance rates were just about double what they are today before the tort reform law was passed. However, they assert that that since 2007, Texas has licensed about 60 percent more new doctors every year than it did before tort reform.

Obviously, there are two sides to every story, just as there are two sides to a medical malpractice victim’s lawsuit. Ultimately, the jury is out on tort reform and it will likely continue to be until someone gets it that once an innocent victim has been harmed, someone must take responsibility for the damage. If not doctors, insurance companies or politicians, then whom? Think about that if you are ever involved in a medical malpractice case and need a significant jury award to pay for your care for the rest of your life.

Robert W. Lee is an Austin personal injury lawyer for Lee, Gober & Reyna. If you need an Austin personal injury lawyer, contact an Austin personal injury attorney from Lee, Gober & Reyna. Visit RWLeelaw.com.