West Virginia medical group says reform and money will ease malpractice crisis

Charleston Gazette
Saturday, August 24, 2002

If doctors want to create a successful medical malpractice insurance company, they'll need certain tort reforms and at least $ 20 million in seed money, among other promises from the state Legislature, according to an analysis released Friday.

"To our knowledge over the last 20 years, no medical professional liability insurance company has been successful in the West Virginia liability climate," the report said. "Without tort and judicial reform coupled with a clean, unburdened start up, neither will a new [Physicians Mutual Insurance Company]."

Critics of tort reform, however, have said there is no correlation between a state's liability system and its malpractice insurance rates.

"It's completely untrue," said Joanne Doroshow, director of the Center for Justice and Democracy. "We did a study in 1999 and found no correlation.

"This should not be a surprise. What's driving the crisis has nothing to do with the tort system. When interest rates drop and the economy weakens, insurance companies respond by dramatically raising premiums.

"The entire purpose is to reduce the ability of people to bring lawsuits against them," she added.

Caps on pain and suffering damages, for example, only deprives young people who've been hurt the most, such as children with a traumatic brain injury who need 24-hour daily care the rest of their lives.

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

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