Medical liability awards hit; Doctors protest insurance costs

Chicago Tribune
Friday, October 4, 2002

About 400 doctors, nurses and other health-care workers rallied Thursday morning outside Will County Courthouse to call attention to the skyrocketing cost of medical malpractice insurance and push for legal reform.

But some consumer advocates say rising premiums are being wrongly tied to jury awards. Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy in New York, said higher insurance premiums are caused by the weak economy and insurance price cuts for nearly two decades.

Because insurance companies, like investors across the country, are making less money from investing, the companies are raising premiums, she said.

Carlton Carl, spokesman for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, said his organization has reviewed studies showing that states with liability caps have not seen significantly lower premiums for doctors. In Nevada, he said, where the state legislature recently instituted a cap for pain and suffering damages, some insurance companies have said they would not lower premiums.

In California, where there is a cap of $250,000 for non-economic damages, doctors can get slightly lower insurance premiums, Doroshow said. Although doctors' groups say that is proof such changes are necessary, Doroshow said the lower premiums may be due to strong state laws regulating the insurance industry.

Doroshow said lawsuits are important tools to highlight flaws in hospitals and patient care.

"Basically, we think the juries are fine," said Doroshow.

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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