|Re: Proposed Federalization of Medical Malpractice Law
I am a trial lawyer. I do not sue doctors. I am in no way affected by any legislation on medical malpractice. I have no personal financial interest in medical malpractice reform. I am concerned for our justice system. I believe that the lies behind 5th avenue sound bites should be exposed. I am writing to you because YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES are proposing sweeping changes not seen since the founding of this Republic to the civil jury-tort system that could severely or even completely limited your ability to recover for injuries caused by medical negligence by proposed legislation to federalize the rules governing medical malpractice cases. I believe this is only foreshadowing of darker days to come for our Constitution and civil justice system. I have personally witnessed the legislative and judicial activism severely limit and/or eviscerate our Constitution freedoms in the name of being tough on crime and the war on drugs. I do not endorse crime or criminals. However, I took an oath to protect the Constitution and I do my best to do so everyday. You have the privilege of living in the safest country in the world largely because the little man can hold even the most powerful corporation accountable for their actions in court where only one person can speak at a time. Most people can't afford personal lobbyist in Congress, but everyone can afford a lawyer on a contingency fee.
On January 16, 2003, President Bush proposed strict new regulations which, if passed, will significantly change how injured patients are compensated at trial or settlement. He has proposed, for example, that there be a federal cap of $250,000 on pain and suffering and loss of consortium damages. Currently, there is no cap in Georgia on such damages, although there are also efforts by the Republicans in the legislature to impose them under state law. This difference should give you an idea of how severe a measure this is. President Bush has also proposed that judgments and/or settlements be paid out over time, and not in a lump amount. This, of course, further reduces the amount that doctors and/or hospitals have to pay out for their mistakes. With all of this proposed legislation comes less accountability for doctors and hospitals.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
It is the lawmakers who will ultimately approve or disapprove of President Bush's proposed legislation. While attorneys can call their congressman and/or senator to lodge their protest, it would mean much more if citizens could make these calls instead. I encourage you therefore to call your senators: Sen. Zell Miller can be reached at (202)224-3643 and Sen. Saxby Chambliss can be reached at (202) 224-3521. Please call these numbers and leave a voicemail expressing your opposition to President Bush'sproposed plan.
You should also contact your Congressman to ask them to oppose this plan in the House of Representatives. Here are the numbers for all Georgia representatives:
Bishop, Sanford D. Jr. GA 2nd (202) 225-3631
Burns, Max GA 12th (202) 225-2823
Collins, Mac GA 8th (202) 225-5901
Deal, Nathan GA 10th (202) 225-5211
Gingrey, Phil GA 11th (202) 225-2931
Isakson, Johnny GA 6th (202) 225-4501
Kingston, Jack GA 1st (202) 225-5831
Lewis, John GA 5th (202) 225-3801
Linder, John GA 7th (202) 225-4272
Majette, Denise L. GA 4th (202) 225-1605
Marshall, Jim GA 3rd (202) 225-6531
Norwood, Charlie GA 9th (202) 225-4101
Scott, David GA 13th (202) 225-2939
When you call, you may wish to include the following points:
Let the States Make Their Own Medical Malpractice Laws.
Georgia, like a number of other states, already has its own set of laws governing medical malpractice actions. Our rules are already restrictive enough. There certainly is no need to "federalize" the issue and make them even more restrictive. If states have a "crisis" on their hands, they have the ability and power to address and remedy it themselves.
Insurance Companies Have Too Much Control over Our Healthcare System.
The insurance companies already dictate patients' access to treatment, quality of care, what doctors practice medicine, as well as how these doctors get paid. Through President Bush's proposal and their special-interest lobbying efforts, insurance companies are now close to dictating what victims of medical malpractice are entitled to when one of their doctors make a mistake. Why aren't limitations instead imposed on what insurance companies can charge doctors? The so-called reform should focus on what insurance companies can charge, not on limiting patients' rights.
Caps Just Don't Work.
If caps worked, doctors in West Virginia would not be walking off the job. West Virginia has a cap, yet its malpractice rates are skyrocketing. The fact is, these caps don't prevent this from happening. Nevada, a state that has recently imposed caps in response to rising medical malpractice rates, is another example. After implementation of the cap, insurance rates did not go down, but are still among the highest in the country. Companies insuring Nevada doctors actually announced their intent not to reduce insurance rates despite the imposed cap. Consider also that insurance rates in France are increasing,resulting in doctors walking off the job. France's medical liability system, however, is already "capped" and judges sit with a panel of doctors to consider fault and the extent of liability. In France, there are no jurors dispensing "jack-pot justice." Another example is California. For twelve years following the enactment of a $250,000 non-economic damage cap, malpractice premiums increased by 190%. It was not until voters approved insurance reforms (Proposition 103)that the insurance industry's anti-trust exemption was removed and rates began to level off. Over the last two years, medical liability insurers in California sought rate increases totaling more than 50%, despite having one of the most restrictive caps in the country.
Keep Accountability Intact.
The judicial system helps enforce a patients right to receive adequate medical care. Reducing doctors and/or hospitals liability will never advance this goal. Making it cheaper for doctors and hospitals to make mistakes will only cause mistakes to increase because there will be less accountability when mistakes do occur.
There is no litigation crisis.
There is no back log of frivolous lawsuits. Most civil lawsuits go to trial within the first or second month they are put on a trial calendar. Over 80% of jury verdicts result in defense verdicts or zero damages. Of the small percentage of cases that monetary damages are awarded, punitive damages cases represent less than 5% of that 20% of cases. Even if jury awards are excessive, Judges will routinely reduce the verdicts. "Litigation Crisis" is simply a public relations creation spawned by reporting of usual jury verdicts like the McDonald's case in newspapers and on TV. The truth is that insurance rates show no correlation to damage awards. Amazingly enough, they correlate exactly to the interest earned on government bonds which is exactly where insurance companies invest there idle premiums. Coincidentally, we are experiencing historically low bond yields today which explains the panic premium increases seen in everything from medical insurance to automobile insurance. The truth is that the insurance companies want to increase there revenues and lower their costs. Either way you pay. Insurance industry officials have repeatedly said that tort reform will not result in insurance premium relief.
Please help us in fighting against this proposed legislation by calling your Senators and Representative today.
Very truly yours,
George C. Creal, Jr.
George C. Creal, Jr., P.C.