A day does not go by without a story in the news of how doctors are leaving the practice of medicine because of skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums. Besides omitting from the news story the statistics which show the opposite of the rhetoric, these news stories fail to mention: increases in medical malpractice insurer profits, increases in reserves, the declining number and size of verdicts against doctors, how the doctors and insurers are responsible for the rising costs of litigating medical malpractice claims due to delay tactics by the defendants, etc... The public is being misled by an uninformed media, that is being lied to by a fraudulent industry, in an effort to make the public ammenable to tort "reform" which is an attack on your seventh amendment right to a jury trial.
There is some abuse of the civil litigation system occuring. But if any abuse is the benchmark for needing reform, the insurance industry needs a substantial overhaul, and it needs to be overhauled before the civil litigation system is further "reformed."
Many states in response to the "medical malpractice crisises" of the 1970's & 1980's instituted pre-filing certification requirements on medical malpractice claims. These reviews cost several thousands of dollars, this cost is not recoverable from a doctor found liable of malpractice, and therefore only made it economically unfeasible for a slightly injured patient to bring a claim. What many people, and even many doctors, do not understand is that it takes at least $10,000 to prosecute even the smallest medical malpractice claim. Not only does the plaintiff need to get a certificate of merit, but in most cases, at least one expert will be necessary for trial, and expert fees are usually significant. In any sizeable case, there are likely to be several experts, with extensive medical records to review, depositions of all the experts, significant pre-trial preparation of experts and time at trial. Actual out of pocket expenses for expert witness fees can easily reach or exceed $70K-$100K. The insurance companies know that if they cap non-economic damages at $250K, many medical malpractice cases will not be economically feasible, and therefore not brought. Malpractice insurers also know that if there is a cap on what a court can award, they have the upper hand in negotiating lower settlements (Note: where physician conduct is egregious, insurance companies will settle claims).
If you need further proof that it is not the civil litigation system, but rather the insurance industry that needs reform, look no further than the under oath admissions of insurance companies that caps on damages will not lower medical malpractice premiums. In those states where the legislatures have been suckered into accepting caps, note that the premiums in those states have not leveled off, and in states like Ohio, remain among the highest in the country.
Americans for Insurance Reform has done an excellent job of demonstrating the deceit of insurers and the lackluster response of insurance regulators.