Georgia: Replacing the Medical Malpractice System?

Throughout the years, many have complained about the inadequacies of the current medical malpractice system. The most prevalent of these complaints is that damage awards have grown to be so immense that it is debilitating the health care industry. Some have even claimed this effect is disincentivizing students from becoming physicians. But while many have expressed their displeasure with the current medical malpractice system, no state has formally adopted an alternative. However, that may change as Georgia physicians have proposed a solution. Until this adopted, patients harmed by medical malpractice and negligence are encouraged to contact a medical malpractice attorney immediately to obtain the damage award they deserve.

Soon to be placed in front of the Georgia legislature, the Patients’ Compensation System proposes an entirely different medical malpractice system. The Patients’ Compensation System most closely resembles the current Workers’ Compensation System. Thus, patients harmed by medical malpractice or negligence would not be able to sue the offending physician. Instead, the harmed patient would file a claim for review by a panel of individuals who are highly knowledgeable in both medicine and the law. This panel of trained individuals would then determine if malpractice or negligence had occurred. If they deemed it had, the claim would then be passed along to a highly trained Compensation Board. This board would be similarly knowledgeable in medicine and the law, specifically that of compensation. The board members would then decide and render an adequate compensation for the malpractice.

It is highly likely the compensation awarded would be far less than what juries are currently awarding for medical malpractice. This decrease in damage award would not affect the compensatory damages, but most likely only the punitive damages. It is the punitive damages, also known as pain and suffering damages, that are alleged to be excessive and damaging the health care system as a whole.

In addition to a more reasonable and educated panel deciding the amount of compensation to be awarded, the Compensation Board will also create consistency and thus, predictability. This predictability will benefit both the physicians and the patients. It will also decrease the number of false or frivolous lawsuits filed against physicians. All of these subsidiary effects of the proposed Patients’ Compensation System should reach its desired effect: to decrease the high costs of the current medical malpractice system which ultimately lessens the costs of insurance premiums for physicians and health care for patients.

A survey of over 330 physicians currently practicing in the state of Georgia showed that there was strong support for the adoption of the Patients for Fair Compensation. Georgia, like almost every state, is struggling with the massive cost of the current medical malpractice and health care system. The Oppenheim Research of Tallahassee survey showed that 95 percent of physicians asked endorsed the adoption of the Patients’ Compensation System. Furthermore, 90 percent of the physicians thought the Patients’ Compensation System would reduce the practice of defensive medicine, which would consequently reduce health care costs.

While this survey polled many physicians across the state, it may not be completely representative of support for the Patients’ Compensation System because physicians are not the only interested party. Insurance companies and patients alike are to be affected by this new system if it were to be adopted. As a result, these interest parties should be surveyed as well, so that the Georgia legislature can make a more informed decision.

If the Patients’ Compensation System does replace the current medical malpractice system, it may serve as the catalyst for other states to initiate reform to this antiquated and costly system. But until, and if, this new system is adopted, victims of medical malpractice and negligence will continue to use the court system to obtain damages. If you or a family member has been the victim of medical malpractice or negligence, contact an attorney today.

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