October 9 2007 - Medical malpractice cap entices doctors to Texas
When Texas passed a constitutional amendment four years ago which limited the amount a plaintiff could receive in a medical malpractice suit, doctors nationwide were intrigued. Now, doctors from all over the country are moving their practice to Texas to protect themselves from the threat of crippling malpractice rewards to plaintiffs in other states.
Texas voters passed the ballotmeasure, Proposition 12, to amend the state constitution to allow state lawmakers to pass legislation which caps the total damages a plaintiff can receive in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Texas Governor, Rick Perry signed such a bill into law in 2004. Specifically, noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits at $250,000 for physicians, $250,000 for hospitals and $250,000 for nursing homes and other health carefacilities. The legislation also caps total noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits at $750,000 per plaintiff. Economic damages were not affected by this bill.
With this law in place, the Texas state medical board now is swamped with application after application from doctors across the nation seeking to practice in the state. Approximately 2,500 applications are pending currently. Additionally, the number of licenses issued in Texas has jumped 30% in the last fiscal year, and there has been an overall increase of 18% since 2003.
Critics of the law question whether the changes have left patients more vulnerable by opening the door for Texas doctors to cut back on their insurance for medical malpractice. By doing this, doctors make it harder for plaintiffs to collect damages, leaving doctors with less legal accountability. Other critics are concerned that more doctors does not necessarily mean better doctors, and they are uncertain of the quality of those doctors coming into the state.
Medical Malpractice attorneys also question the effectiveness of the law with regard to the plaintiffs who have suffered an injury as a result of a doctor´s malpractice.