Illinois’ Court Set to Rule on Liability Limitations

Under fire in the state of Illinois are the statute of limitations for medical liability lawsuits, with the possibility that they could be extended and leave physicians indefinitely vulnerable to medical lawsuit abuse.

Currently in Illinois, wrongful death suits must be filed within two years of death, but a recent lawsuit is arguing that the limitation period should begin from the time of discovery. After a trial court dismissed the original lawsuit on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired, an appellate court upheld the dismissal on the grounds that no “discovery exemption” existed within the statute of limitations.

Now, the case has moved to the Illinois Supreme Court, and the American Medical Association, together with state medical societies, has filed an amicus brief urging the court to retain the existing statute of limitations.

“The General Assembly intended to provide the citizens of this state with a limitations period fair to both plaintiffs and defendants,” the brief said. “It balances the need for plaintiffs to bring lawsuits with the defendants’ need to know when their potential liability is extinguished.”

Without such a defined period, physicians face uncertain future threats of medical liability lawsuits, and families of patients with legitimate claims will face delays in receiving compensation.

To read more about the impending ruling on the statute of limitations in Illinois, click here.

Medical Liability Reforms Move towards the Ballot Box in Arkansas

Following recent setbacks in the pursuit of reasonable limits on non-economic damages, a new push in Arkansas would give voters the chance to weigh in on medical lawsuit abuse and excessive attorneys’ fees.

The “Amendment to limit attorney contingency fees and non-economic damages in medical lawsuits” has been approved by the state’s Attorney General, but requires over 80,000 signatures on a petition to secure its place on the November ballot.

In addition to setting the limits on non-economic damages at $250,000, and adjusting every two years for inflation, the constitutional amendment would also reign in legal fees and allow attorneys to charge no more than one third of the amount recovered by the plaintiff.

Similar efforts made in 2003 by lawmakers were unfortunately overturned in 2011, leaving patients and physicians in Arkansas vulnerable to increased health care costs and reduced access to care.

To read more about the efforts to put medical liability reform efforts in voters’ – and patients’ – hands, click here.

Texas near the Top for Practicing Physicians

Coinciding with the state’s passage of comprehensive medical liability reforms, physicians have flocked to Texas over the past decade, opening up access to critical care for patients throughout the state and leaving physicians happy to be practicing there.

Ranking Texas as the 6th best state for physicians, and Mississippi, having also passed comprehensive liability reforms, at number one, a recent study showed how the favorable liability climate is paying off for patients who had been previously facing a loss in trauma and specialty physicians.

In 2015, Texas licensed a record 5,377 physicians, a figure that Jon Opelt, executive director for Texas Alliance for Patient Access, attributed to “landmark reforms [that] have been a huge boon to keeping and attracting physicians to care for more Texas patients.”

“Many of the state’s newly-minted physicians have cited the state’s more hospitable legal climate as a significant factor in their choosing to practice here,” Opelt said. “Now they can focus on providing the best care for patients with fewer unfounded legal threats.”

Leading to nearly 36 million more patient visits than would have been available without comprehensive liability reform, patients are also likely pleased about the accessing the physicians they need, when they need them the most.

To read more about the recent survey of best states for practicing physicians, click here.