New Hampshire Takes Bold Step to Limit Medical Malpractice Awards

Many states are battling extremely high health care costs as a result of massive damage awards given to victims of medical malpractice and negligence. Various efforts have been both proposed and taken by many different states, New Hampshire being the most recent of them. New Hampshire has taken a very bold approach, known as the ‘Early Offer’, in an attempt to curb the massive costs of medical malpractice and negligence. However, this new system still allows the opportunity for victims to fully litigate cases, maintaining the necessity for a medical malpractice attorney. Our medical malpractice and negligence attorneys have years of experience obtaining the largest settlements and jury awards possible for all of our clients.

New Hampshire, a small state in the northeast of the United States, has among the most elevated health care costs per capita. For years, the New Hampshire legislature struggled to find ways to fix these unbearably high costs. Most recently, the Legislature decided to override the Governor, John Lynch, after the Governor vetoed this proposal.

The proposal, which has now been enacted, strongly disincentivizes victims of medical malpractice and negligence from fully litigating their lawsuits. The reform greatly incentivizes victims to engage in settlement agreements and arbitration. By incentivizing settlement agreements and arbitration, defendants will be able to avoid overly zealous and sympathetic juries that are often responsible for granting such large damage awards.

In these preliminary settlement agreements or arbitration, compensation would be offered to the medical malpractice victim. These offers would be composed of the victim’s economic losses, which consist of lost wages and medical bills, and amounts of pain and suffering. The difference between these offers and those awarded by juries in trial is that the pain and suffering amounts are much smaller.

At first glance, it would appear that very few plaintiffs or victims would ever engage in settlements or arbitration because it would lessen the amount they were to receive. As a result, the reform proposal instituted a clause that required plaintiffs to essentially pay a fee for fully litigating a case. This fee is in the form of a penalty that is levied against them. If a plaintiff and victim decides to litigate a case, and loses the cases, he or she would then be fully responsible for all of the attorney and court costs of the opposing party. And as anyone familiar with litigation knows, these costs can become very large. Furthermore, even if the plaintiff or victim is successful at trial, he or she will still be required to pay the attorney’s fees and court costs of the opposing party unless the new damage award given by the jury is 125% larger than the original settlement offer.

This reform proposal has been supported by many in the health care industry, and resented by many private individuals and legal lobbyists. One of the most prominent persons opposing this reform was the Governor of New Hampshire, Mr. John Lynch. Governor Lynch vetoed the proposal after it had been passed by the State Legislature. His reason for vetoing the proposal was he thought it unfairly disadvantage victims. The proposal clearly pressures victims into settling for amounts that are likely to be far below what they would have normally been awarded had the case been litigated.

Despite the Governor’s veto, the legislature struck it down. As a result, the reform will be instituted in the near future. Only time will tell the outcome of this reform. Will it actually lower the costs of health care within the state? Will victims receive awards that are fair? Will lawsuits be filed on behalf of victims against the legislation? The answers, while unknown, would seem to be yes, maybe, and definitely.

If you or a family member has suffered an injury from medical malpractice or neglect, in any state, you should contact an attorney at Pintas & Mullins today to ensure you receive the money you deserve.

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