A new bill is quietly making its way through Congress that directly affects victims of medical malpractice across the country. Known as the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, H.R. 1215 proposes a nation-wide cap on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice suits, sets limits on attorney fees, and threatens a right historically held by states to individually decide what limits are best for their citizens.
H.R. 1215 aims to impose an even $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages that victims of medical malpractice can recover in a lawsuit. The bill defines noneconomic damages as non-pecuniary losses including physical and emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of society and companionship, loss of consortium, hedonic damages, and injury to reputation. This disproportionally affects recovery for victims who are elderly, children, or homemakers, because they do not have a chance to recover certain economic damages like loss of potential income.
The bill also proposes placing nation-wide limits on attorney fees for the plaintiff’s attorneys only. This, along with the cap of $250,000 will likely discourage attorneys from taking on cases to help victims who have been wronged by medical professionals.
Historically, setting damage caps has been a state issue, with each state deciding what limits are best for its citizens. This bill will override most of the existing state laws, including enforcing the cap for states whose legislature has already found such caps unconstitutional. Supporters of the bill argue that a cap of $250,000 will help improve medical care across the country because doctors will have to pay less for liability insurance and the cap will discourage frivolous lawsuits. The other side argues that medical malpractice liability encourages health care providers to practice more carefully. Researchers have found that in states that already have noneconomic damage caps, “patient safety gradually falls” after the caps are put in place.
The attorneys at Powers Taylor have consistently fought for medical malpractice victims and will continue to do so. This bill establishes provisions that directly impact the recovery of our clients and potential clients across the country. The House of Representatives recently passed this bill and it will now go on to the Senate for a vote. We encourage everyone to contact your Senator to let them know you stand against H.R. 1215 and to vote “NO” on the bill.