Proposed bill seeks to quickly settle medical malpractice claims

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Mar 20, 2012 in Medical Malpractice

The resulting negative implications of a medical mistake are often serious and long-standing. Surgical and medical errors often result in debilitating injuries that require years of physical therapy and may even result in death. Given the severity of these types of injuries, it's no wonder that a newly proposed bill aiming to expedite the settling of medical malpractice lawsuit s is drawing a lot of criticism.

Touted as the early offer option, the bill would serve as a quick-fix alternative for patients seeking compensation and damages related to medical malpractice negligence. While proponents of the bill, including doctors, insurance providers and hospitals, contend benefits of the early offer option include a guaranteed settlement, no attorney fees and a relatively quick pay-out; others remain skeptical.

Those opposed to the proposed bill believe it would prey on individuals desperate for a pay-out and ultimately serve to benefit hospitals and insurers who want to quickly dismiss claims of medical malpractice and provide low ball settlement offers. Likewise, civil litigation advocates and attorneys believe this type of quick win solution seeks to put an undue burden of proof upon the injured party.

Under the provisions of the proposed bill, the injured party would send notice of their injury and pending lawsuit to their medical provider who then has 90 days in which to extend an early offer. If an early offer is extended, the injured party then has 60 days in which to respond and either accept or reject the offer. Should the injured party decide to reject the offer, in order for the lawsuit to proceed, they are then forced to prove "gross negligence" which is much more difficult.

While this specific bill is currently only being proposed in New Hampshire, depending on the outcome, states like West Virginia may soon adopt similar provisions.

Source: Concord Monitor, "Senate proposes malpractice 'early offer' legislation," Matthew Spolar, Mar. 16, 2012

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