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Medical Malpractice Tort Reform Bill Narrowly Passes House

Posted on behalf of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Jun 29, 2017 in Medical Malpractice

U.S. House of RepresentativesOn Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed House Bill 1215, known as the Protecting Access to Care Act, which will strip patients and nursing home residents of their right to hold hospitals, health care providers and nursing homes liable for injuries resulting from negligence, abuse and defective products.

The bill faced harsh criticism from both sides of the aisle and passed by a vote of 218-210. The bill has now moved to the Senate where it will need to be approved before heading to the President to be signed into law.

As strong advocates for the rights of injured patients, the Watertown medical malpractice attorneys at D’Amico & Pettinicchi strongly oppose the passage of this bill and encourage you to contact your Senators and tell them to vote “no” on this bill.

The American Association for Justice (AAJ) issued a statement on the vote stating that the bill “prioritizes the interests of health care corporations and the insurance industry at the expense of safe, affordable medical care for Americans.”

Limits to Patient Rights

In its statement against the bill, the AAJ noted that every year, hundreds of thousands of patients are killed due to preventable medical errors. Studies have suggested that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

However, despite the significant number of people harmed by medical negligence every year, the House voted to limit patients’ right to hold these negligent providers accountable for the harm they have done.

The bill would affect all medical malpractice cases, including those involving:

  • Medical errors
  • Errors during surgery
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Abuse and neglect in nursing homes
  • Sexual assault by doctors
  • Side effects from unsafe drugs
  • Injuries from defective medical devices

Caps on Noneconomic Damages

This bill would place significant limits on the ability of patients who have been severely injured by medical negligence to obtain the justice they deserve.

It would cap the noneconomic damages that can be recovered from medical malpractice cases at $250,000.

Noneconomic damages include compensation for damages that are hard to place a dollar amount on, such as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of limb
  • Disfigurement
  • Loss of companionship

Approximately two dozen states, including Connecticut, do not have caps on medical malpractice damages. Furthermore, several state supreme courts have ruled damages caps as unconstitutional.

This law, however, would prevent states from creating their own laws on the matter and would override state laws already in place.

Reduced Statute of Limitations

The bill would also set a federal statute of limitations that requires patients to file a lawsuit for injuries within three years of the incident or one year from when they discovered or should have discovered the injury, whichever comes first.

Critics note that the wording of “whichever comes first” essentially limits the statute of limitations to one year.

This law would overrule state laws on the matter, most of which are more generous. Connecticut’s current statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is two years from the date of injury or two years from when the injury was or should have been discovered.

Limits on Attorneys’ Fees

The proposed bill would also limit the fee that attorneys can charge for bringing a case. Although this concept seems like it could help consumers, it could ultimately end up hurting them, according to several of the bill’s critics.

This is because medical malpractice cases are very complex and expensive to litigate. Limiting the amount attorneys can recover after fronting the full costs of the case could limit the number of lawyers willing to take on these types of cases, ultimately hurting patients' ability to obtain justice.

Dedicated Medical Malpractice Attorneys

The medical malpractice attorneys at D’Amico & Pettinicchi are staunch supporters of the rights of injured victims to hold negligent care providers accountable. Currently, the only way to do that is through the courts and with monetary damage awards.

To learn more about your legal rights after suffering an injury from medical malpractice, contact our team for a free, no obligation consultation.

Complete a Free Case Evaluation form or call (866) 848-7077.