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Pros and cons of big medical malpractice awards

Nobody wants to think of being the victim of a medical error, a missed diagnosis, a wrong diagnosis or more. But, sadly, it does happen. All around the country and including in New Mexico, doctor errors happen on an all-too often basis. Sometimes, patients may not even be aware of it. Other times, a statute of limitations prevents action from being taken. Some people believe that medical malpractice lawsuits are out of control, others believe they are essential ways of providing justice and, hopefully, creating safer healthcare.

A recent $130 million jury award in the case of a birth injury that resulted in severe cerebral palsy is claiming a great deal of attention of both parties in favor of and against such a medical malpractice judgment. Critics, including the defense, say the award is unreasonably high. Supporters point to the defense’s rejection of a pre-trial $8 million settlement offer in addition to the diminished life of the child.

Some claim that insurance premiums as well as the cost of healthcare services in general are forced to rise in order to accommodate the price tag of malpractice lawsuits. Others point to a span of time in the 1970s and 1980s when anesthesiologists had a very high rate of malpractice payouts and the subsequent reform that came about in response to the situation.

Lawyers do not advocate unnecessary lawsuits but anyone who suspects that a medical error or some doctor negligence has occurred may wish to consider getting legal counsel. It can be a smart way of protecting everyone involved.

Source: Insurance Journal, “Do Big Malpractice Awards Really Increase Medical Costs?,” August 25, 2013

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