As medical malpractice attorneys, we fight against injustice every day: for our clients in North and South Carolina, and on behalf of clients throughout the country. We have tackled some of the most complex mass tort litigation on record, stood up to major insurance companies, and held firm against negligent medical professionals and hospitals. We do it because we believe that, above all, injury victims have a right to be heard.
But you also have a Constitutional right to a jury trial for criminal cases (Sixth Amendment) and civil cases (Seventh Amendment). This is one of the many, many reasons why H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, is such a dangerous bill. You can read the full text of the bill here, but we want to explain in detail just how bad this bill will be for injury victims and their families, and how this Act will do nothing but line the pockets of the big corporations, insurers and hospitals, while simultaneously causing irreparable harm to victims of healthcare negligence.
What is H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017?
H.R 1215 is a bill, introduced to the House of Representatives, that aims “To improve patient access to health care services and provide improved medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system.” In more common terms, it is federally-imposed tort reform, aimed at decreasing the amount of compensation a medical malpractice victim may collect regardless of the severity of the injury or illness.
Why does Congress want to pass this bill?
Congress believes that the reason healthcare costs are so high is because of “frivolous” lawsuits; namely, that there are these runaway juries out there just handing over millions of dollars to victims for no reason, and that these verdicts are causing the cost of medical malpractice insurance to rise. Nothing could be further from the truth. This belief that our country is in a medical malpractice “crisis” is a myth – one that we have debunked before. Even the leading medical malpractice insurance companies in the U.S., like the Doctors Company, say that insurance rates have either held steady or declined over the last decade. This case for federal tort reform through H.R. 1215 is a lie.
What does H.R. 1215 actually say about damage caps and reform?
There are four main components to H.R. 1215 that pose a real, genuine risk to victims of medical malpractice. We will review these components through a series of blogs over the coming days, but this is the gist of it:
- All claims for non-economic damages will be limited to $250,000. The negligent surgeon, the defective device that led to an infection, the medical personnel that gave you the wrong medication, the hospital that didn’t do background checks: no matter what happens, or how severe your injury is, you may only be awarded $250,000 in non-economic damages.
- No more class-action lawsuits. Class-action lawsuits have always been an exceptional way for multiple plaintiffs to seek justice through the civil justice system without getting bogged down in multiple courts. Class actions are among the most effective tools we have for addressing systemic negligence.
- No more state laws. Each state makes its own laws and rules about litigation in civil courts. Now, even if your state government wanted to keep more generous options open, it would not be able to do so.
- Insurance companies get to pay on installment. To quote: “In any health care lawsuit, if an award of future damages, without reduction to present value, equaling or exceeding $50,000 is made against a party with sufficient insurance or other assets to fund a periodic payment of such a judgment, the court shall, at the request of any party, enter a judgment ordering that the future damages be paid by periodic payments.”
It also places a cap on attorneys’ fees – but only for plaintiffs’ attorneys. The lawyers who work for the hospitals and the insurance companies and the manufacturers of those defective products? They’re entitled to whatever they charge, no questions asked.
“Will H.R. 1215 hurt me and my family?”
Undoubtedly yes, it will. We will never imply that money can, in any way, replace your loss when a loved one dies, or is so catastrophically injured that your life changes forever. But it does do one thing particularly well: it forces negligent parties to acknowledge, and to be accountable, for their actions. When a jury finds for a victim, it sends a clear message that such behavior will not be tolerated.
To hospitals and multi-million or -billion dollar corporations, though, $250,000 is a drop in the bucket. Such a small fee will not prevent these companies from taking advantage of patients over and over again.
The idea that tort reform and damage caps will help curb the cost of healthcare is a myth. This latest bill by Congress will do nothing but help put more money in the wallets of those who hurt you, while simultaneously infringing on your right to a fair trial.
McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC encourages you to contact your representatives and tell them to vote “No” on the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017. We promise we will fight this with the same passion and dedication we have for the people we help. In the meantime, if you have need of a skilled South Carolina medical malpractice attorney, you can reach us throughout our contact form, or by calling 888-302-7546.