Is Oregon Medical Malpractice Reform Necessary?

Medical malpractice reform has been a hot topic across the country and in Oregon. Some states have even passed legislation to cap the amount of damages that injured people may receive after a life-altering injury. Some Oregon lawmakers believe that damage caps will reduce the costs of medical malpractice lawsuits and overall health care costs.

Oregon malpractice lawsuits originate when an injured person brings a civil lawsuit through the court system. The injured party must then demonstrate how the doctor or hospital was negligent in causing or exacerbating an injury.

Currently, in Oregon there are no caps to limit the amount of monetary damages available. An injured person can seek compensation to cover economic damages, such as past and future medical bills and lost wages. In addition, a jury may award money to cover pain and suffering or punish a large organization for reprehensible conduct.

Proposed Reform

A proposal to change to the system would prolong the process and close the courthouse doors to the injured. Under the proposed system, the injured party and the health care provider discuss what occurred. Within 90 days, the provider will need to make an offer of compromise or decline to provide an offer. In some cases, an apology may also be given. If no agreement is reached at this stage, the case goes to mediation. The case only gets to court is mediation fails.

Mediation is a private process involving a neutral mediator who attempts to bring the parties to a settlement. In many areas of the law, mediation is successful and currently before many cases go to trial, the judge will even act as a mediator.

While mediation can work, requiring all parties to go through the above process before reaching court will delay resolutions for many injured people. Going through a trial is a long process in itself. To add more time may deter patients from seeking damages they rightfully deserve.

These new approaches claim to impact medical costs. Yet in states that have gone the route of damage caps, insurance premiums for doctors have increased. A study published this year, reviewed Texas’s 2003 tort reform efforts. It found no evidence that the reforms lower health-care spending.

When doctors are negligent, they must be held accountable for their actions. When suspected health care provider negligence causes an injury, discussing the situation with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer is the first step in seeking available remedies.