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Gov. Perry's Presidential Run Places Spotlight on Medical Malpractice Reform Initiatives in Texas

Governor Rick Perry's run for the presidency has placed a spotlight on his medical malpractice and tort reform initiatives in Texas.  As governor of Texas, Perry has helped to pass legislation that capped compensation for non-economic damages caused by medical negligence.  He also recently passed another law that makes it easier to dismiss some lawsuits and forces plaintiffs to incur the legal costs for certain cases that are defeated or dismissed.  As part of his presidential campaign, Gov. Perry is currently pushing for federal tort reform. Gov. Perry and others in favor of tort reform believe that reform initiatives similar to those passed in Texas would help the nation's health care system.  Gov. Perry's personal injury reform initiatives in Texas began in 2003 with the passage of legislation that limited the amount of money a plaintiff could receive in a medical malpractice lawsuit.  Non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, were capped at $250,000 in lawsuits against doctors and $750,000 for lawsuits against hospitals. Proponents in favor of tort reform tout statistics showing that, in the first five years following Texas' tort reform, 14,498 doctors either returned to practice in Texas or began practicing there for the first time.  Other statistics indicate that the Texas tort reform did not enhance Texas' medical community, however.  In fact, according to statistics compiled by the American Medical Association and other physician organizations, the rate of growth was actually lower than the national average for the number of doctors in patient care. Moreover, even though tort reform may result in lower medical malpractice insurance premiums, those cost savings are not being passed on to patients.  In 2010, the average premium for family coverage in Texas was actually $655 higher than the national average. Not only has Texas' personal injury tort reform failed to enhance the medical community or result in cost savings to patients, but medical malpractice tort reforms can also hurt patients by facilitating a culture that lacks accountability.  As we recently reported, the vast majority of personal injury lawsuits are not frivolous.  In fact, a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health analyzing more than 1,400 medical malpractice claims concluded that the majority of medical malpractice claims were meritorious and involved "injuries due to error," with 80% involving death or serious injury. Steinberg Goodman & Kalish  (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families.  We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (800) 784-0150 or (312) 782-1386.

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