Tort Reform Talking Points

There’s an old piece of advice that has almost become cliché:  when drinking alcohol, never discuss politics or religion.  It’s generally good advice.

That said, I sometimes find myself at cocktail parties, and people (knowing what I do for a living) ask me about tort reform, and challenge me to defend the current system.  I think I hold my own in these discussions, but sometimes it’s helpful to have the right talking points.

That’s exactly what Trial Magazine provided in its August issue.  The article, titled: Cocktail-party comebacks to tort ‘reform’ talk (subscription required) is a simple essay debunking the myths on tort reform.

First, the obvious charge:  “Large verdicts are awarded by runaway juries, (and) medical negligence lawsuits raise the cost of healthcare and drive doctors out of business”.  The article then outlines a number of statistics that should be helpful in debunking this myth.  Here’s a sampling:

  1. Judges don’t think frivolous lawsuits are a problem. In fact of 278 judges surveyed, 70 percent said “groundless lawsuits” were a small problem, or a very small problem, and 15 percent said they were “no problem at all.”
  2. The number of doctors is increasing. In fact, the AMA found that the number of doctors has increased in every state for years.  In 46 states, the growth has been faster than the overall population.
  3. High malpractice premiums are not related to lawsuits. To be sure, malpractice premiums have been going up, but Trial reported that this increase has more to do with Insurance companies struggling to deal with investment losses, than medical malpractice claims.  In fact, one study found that over a five-year period, malpractice insurance premiums had increased drastically, even as malpractice claim payments remained flat, or in some cases decreased.

There’s much more in the article, but the bottom line is that the facts are not on the side of the insurance lobby.  Medical malpractice lawsuits remain an important safety net for compensating victims of health care providers’ negligence.  For more information, click here.