According to a report on Forbes.com, Mississippi's cap on pain and suffering awards had led to a significant drop in medical malpractice lawsuit filed in the state. The articles sites a recent study that looked at the total number of lawsuits filed against doctors insured by the largest medical malpractice insurer and came to the conclusion that tort reform has made a sizeable dent in the number of lawsuits filed against the insurer's doctors.
In 2001, medical malpractice suits in Mississippi numbered 350. Then in 2002, the number of suits filed nearly doubled to 630. Coincidentally, this was the time when the Mississippi legislature announced that it would be capping non-economic damages at $500,000 for all medical malpractice cases filed after January 1, 2003. When the new law took effect, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed against Mississippi doctors shrank to 132, which is the lowest it has been since 1989. During that year, the Mississippi legislature passed laws that prevented the cap on non-economic damages from being increased and that required plaintiffs to sue in the county where the alleged injury took place, making it difficult for plaintiffs to shop around for a favorable jurisdiction. Since that time, the number of suits filed against doctors has averaged 150 per year.
The Forbes article highlights some important concepts that can be gleaned from Mississippi's tort reform. First, state legislatures have limited power to influence the outcome of civil litigation. The passage of Mississippi's tort reform provisions seemed to be causally connected to the substantial decrease in the number of malpractice suits filed. Second, medical malpractice suits may NOT make the practice of medicine safer, which has been the argument of most medical malpractice attorneys. The article says, "The sudden spike in apparent malpractice followed by a major decrease says everything about economics and very little about how many people were actually injured by malpractice."
Thus, if those filing medical malpractice suits are not actually being injured by the negligence of doctors, then an increase in suits filed does not serve as a deterrent to future bad behavior of doctors. If you or someone you know has questions about a possible medical malpractice claim please call the personal injury lawyers at Kobs & Philley PLLC at (601) 856-7800.
Source: "Malpractice Suits Plunge In Wake of Mississippi Tort Reforms," by Daniel Fisher, published at Forbes.com.