The issue of tort reform is undoubtedly contentious. But regardless of what your opinion is, the startling effects of Ohio's relatively recent tort-reform law are enough to make anyone examine and re-examine their position.
According the annual report for the Ohio Department of Insurance, medical malpractice claims have been dramatically affected by the state tort-reform law. Ohio capped non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits in 2003. This and other more-recent reforms have created a system in which more than 75 percent of medical malpractice claims go completely unpaid.
In addition, average medical malpractice payments have declined by well over a third of what they were in 2005. Closed claim numbers have also dropped by well over a third of 2005 levels within the state.
Advocates of this system point out that medical malpractice insurance rates for physicians have declined by more than a quarter during this time, and that may be good for the Ohio economy. However, this is of little comfort to Ohioans who have been severely injured due to medical negligence and cannot get their claims paid.
It has become notoriously difficult for injured Ohioans to find legal representation, given the low probability of their claims being ultimately paid. While curbing unsubstantiated lawsuits is a worthy pursuit, surely advocates of Ohio's tort-reform laws did not intend for legitimately injured residents to go uncompensated.
Just as an allegedly unbalanced system inspired tort reform, hopefully the practical effects of the law will inspire modifications to it. After all, every Ohio resident deserves to be treated at the level of professional care required by law. When that level of care is compromised, patients deserve to have their day in court and to be compensated for their injuries.
Source: Columbus Dispatch, "Lawsuits against doctors decline," Alan Johnson Apr. 16, 2012