What is Tort Reform and Why Should I Care?

A tort is a noncriminal wrong involving physical, mental, psychological damage caused through a purposeful or negligent act and in which the law provided a civil remedy. According to Page Law, “Personal injury refers to the area of law that seeks to protect victims who are harmed by the action or inaction of another person or entity. Personal injury is also sometimes referred to as tort law.” Torts include injuries from an assault, invasion on personal property, slip and fall misfortunes, and car accidents. Tort reform is a legislation passed by various states in the US in an effort to reduce the number of lawsuits against, among others, medical practitioners. Over 195,000 deaths occur annually in the US due to negligence increasing the number of lawsuits relating to medical malpractices, which the US Justice System documents as the most extensive.

 

Procedural Constraints

Injuries from negligence by medical practitioners can occur at any time. Prior to the reform, costs relating to medical malpractices lawsuits were relatively low and affordable. However, with the passing of the new legislation in some states (Tort Reform States), has made it extremely difficult for victims of medical negligence to access compensation. Additionally, the costs associated with litigation and compensation payouts increase the cost of medical insurance consequently increasing healthcare costs and decreasing the quality of healthcare.

 

Caps on Non-Economic Damages

You should care about since the number of attorneys representing victims has declined due to the strict legal procedure required to make medical malpractice claims. Moreover, if you are able to find a law firm to take up your case the amounts you recover for non-economic damages (pain and suffering) is limited. For instance, in Texas and California, the amount has been limited to a maximum of $250,000.

 

The Statute of Limitation

Under the tort reform, the statutory limitation to file a lawsuit for an alleged medical negligence claim is within 1 year from the discovery of an injury and its negligence cause or within 3 years from the injury. Most Tort Reform States have set a statute repose barring any plaintiff from filing a lawsuit after a certain amount of time even where injuries take a longer time to develop.

 

Conclusion

The tort reform continues to be a contentious debate in the US with the federal government leaving the matter to states to enact the reforms. While proponents of the law claim, it will help reduce the frivolous lawsuits in court and protect manufacturer and physicians from increased malpractice insurance, opponents claim that the law will prevent injured persons from claiming appropriate compensation for injuries while protecting manufacturers and physicians from facing a lawsuit.