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Past Tort Reforms

Setting the Stage with Past Tort Reforms

Not too long ago, the practice of medicine in Ohio was in peril. The state was in the midst of a medical liability crisis. With premiums increasing nearly 30 percent year after year, many doctors were eliminating high-risk procedures while others contemplated leaving the practice of medicine altogether. Access to care was in jeopardy and the future of medicine in Ohio was uncertain. However, through the work of the OSMA, physicians rallied together to change the medical liability landscape in Ohio.

Does Tort Reform Work? 

Medical malpractice claims hit a new seven-year low in 2012, according to an article published in the Columbus Dispatch on May 7, 2014. A total of 2,733 claims were filed and many resulted in no malpractice payment at all. The Ohio Department of Insurance’s annual Ohio Medical Professional Liability Closed Claim Report showed $177.3 million paid to only 576 claimants.

In 2002-03, the OSMA and its members helped enact 20 sweeping medical liability reforms. These reforms have provided physicians with relief from the liability crisis – more than what any other state in the nation has accomplished. The Medical Liability Reforms included:
  • $350,000 cap on “pain and suffering” awards which helps make the system more predictable for insurers and medical providers;
  • Statute of Repose, which limits the time frame in which any liability claim can be filed to four years from the last date of treatment;
  • Statute of Limitations, limits the time frame once an injury is discovered in which a liability claim can be filed to one year after the discovery;
  • Proportionate liability, which means you only pay damages proportionate to your share of the medical negligence;
  • Affidavit of Merit signed by an expert witness in the same specialty as the defendant that attests to the merit of any liability lawsuit;
  • State Medical Board jurisdiction over out-of-state physician expert witnesses, which gives the board the ability to discipline any physician that provides false or completely baseless medical testimony;
  • “I’m Sorry” law, enables physicians to express apology, sympathy or condolence regarding an unanticipated patient outcome, and protects such expressions or statements from being used as an admission of liability in a subsequent lawsuit;
  • Peer Review Protection that ensures any information disclosed in peer review is protected from discovery in a subsequent medical liability claim;
  • Good Samaritan Law extends liability protection to any physicians that care for indigent patients in their office;
  • Notice of Requirements holds insurance companies accountable by requiring that they explain the reasons behind non-renewals or premium increases, and increases the time period that they provide physicians of nonrenewals or significant premium increases from 30 to 60 days.
Changes in the medical liability insurance marketplace since 2004 have had a huge positive impact. Ohio physicians are no longer worrying about a liability insurance crisis driving them out of practice in the state. While court case filings are down, those with legitimate liability claims still have access to the courts and reasonable compensation.

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