What is Tort Reform?

What is Tort Reform?

Tort reform refers to legislative changes (both laws that are proposed and laws that are passed) that might change the way personal injury cases work. “Tort” is simply another legalese term for private injury.

What is Tort Reform?
More specifically, tort reform typically involves placing caps on what proportion an injured person can receive after a successful lawsuit — a limitation on the dollar figure referred to as damages.

In a typical personal injury claim, like one stemming from medical malpractice, a plaintiff can receive damages that are intended to compensate for:

1. Medical treatment costs (economic damages)
2. Lost income/earnings (economic damages)
3. Pain and suffering (non-economic damages)
4. Emotional distress (non-economic damages)
5. exemplary damages (meant to punish a defendant for egregious or outrageous conduct)

Tort reform efforts usually attempt to limit non-economic damages, exemplary damages, or both.

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Arguments for Tort Reform
Those who argue in favor of tort reform assert that caps on damages are essential for shielding many facets of society from the crushing costs of unreasonable jury verdicts. In medical malpractice cases, for instance, tort reform is seen as together a way of helping to stay down the skyrocketing costs of medical aid.

In injury cases generally, there’s a belief that juries could also be overly sympathetic to injured victims, and can award damages that are out-of-bounds with what’s appropriate. the danger of high, uncapped damage awards leads to insurance being quite expensive. Returning to the medical malpractice example, doctors, hospitals, and health care providers need to pay extra money for insurance, so as a result, medical aid costs more because this cost has got to be borne by consumers. it’s also argued that doctors sometimes make decisions supported by the fear of a lawsuit, instead of solely on what they believe is best.

Arguments Against Tort Reform
Equally compelling are the arguments against tort reforms. Counterarguments assert that it’s not fair to cap damages and stop plaintiffs from getting full compensation for losses that were caused by someone else’s negligence. Some argue that tort reform efforts are unconstitutional, and actually some state constitutions do have prohibitions against these sorts of caps (Arkansas, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania are a few).

Finally, within the context of medical malpractice lawsuits, it’s been asserted in some states — like California — that plaintiffs are having a tough time finding lawyers to require malpractice cases. California features a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases, and attorneys are typically paid a percentage of damages as their only fee in these cases. Since malpractice is dear to prove, this cover on damages acts as a potentially significant hindrance to lawyers taking over malpractice cases. When plaintiffs can’t find lawyers, doctors aren’t getting sued and there’s even less accountability or incentive to refrain from negligence. therefore the argument goes.

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