November 20, 2012, by Michael
Georgia physicians are debating whether to push for a state
constitutional amendment to reinstate a $350,000 cap on medical
malpractice non-economic damages or scrap the current tort driven
system in favor of a scheme similar to the one used in workers'
Georgia's medical malpractice system has been under scrutiny
since 2005 when state lawmakers approved a sweeping rewrite of the
law. Among other things, the law raised the burden of proof
individuals must meet to sue emergency rooms, placed a two-year
statute of limitations on claims, and called for some parties to
pay the other's legal fees in certain cases.
The centerpiece of the reforms, however, was a $350,000 cap on
non-economic damages. The Georgia Supreme Court in 2010 declared
that provision to be unconstitutional, saying it improperly
nullified a jury's ability to award damages based on the facts in a
Now, health care providers in the state are considering their
next move in an effort to rein in overall health care costs and
reduce their medical malpractice premiums.
Jackson Healthcare Solutions CEO Richard Jackson believes it is
time to replace Georgia's current medical malpractice system that
relies on courts to settle claims and institute a no-fault model
that would closely mirror the one utilized to resolve workers'
"The medical malpractice system is incredibly inefficient and
the money actually goes to others in the system and not patients,"
Through the Patients for Fair Compensation, Jackson and his
colleagues are advocating for the creation of a no-fault system
whereby claims would be funneled through an independent medical
review panel. The independent panel would review claims and forward
those it finds have merit to a compensation department that would
create a fee schedule for damages. Patients could appeal findings
to an administrative law judge.
Jackson said the proposed system would restore the original
intent of the medical malpractice system, which was designed to
compensate patients in the event of a medical error. As it is now,
he said, many deserving patients go without benefits simply because
no attorney will take their case.
"If you are poor, unemployed or a child, attorneys will not take
the case," Jackson said. "What we want is a no-blame, streamline
system that pays patients and is way more efficient."
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