Everything's Bigger in Texas: Except the Medmal Settlements

47 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2016

See all articles by Tom Baker

Tom Baker

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Eric Helland

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance; RAND

Jonathan Klick

University of Pennsylvania Law School; Erasmus School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: 2016

Abstract

Recent work using Texas closed claim data finds that physicians are rarely required to use personal assets in medical malpractice settlements even when plaintiffs secure judgments above the physician's insurance limits. In equilibrium, this should lead physicians to purchase less insurance. Qualitative research on the behavior of plaintiffs suggests that there is a norm under which plaintiffs agree not to pursue personal assets as long as defendants are not grossly underinsured. This norm operates as a soft constraint on physicians. All other things equal, while physicians want to lower their coverage, they do not want to violate the norm and trigger an attack on their personal assets. This constraint should be less effective when physicians have other ways to shield their assets, such as through large personal bankruptcy exemptions like those available in Texas. Settlement data from the National Practitioner Data Bank indicate that settlements in Texas are abnormally low, just as they are in other jurisdictions with unlimited homestead exemptions in bankruptcy. Consistent with theory, we find that more generous exemptions are also associated with lower insurance prices and lower levels of insurance coverage. These results suggest that the large "haircuts" and low insurance limits observed in the Texas data may be driven by Texas's generous bankruptcy provisions. At a minimum, Texas is not generally representative of other jurisdictions. This weakens the case for extrapolating conclusions from Texas data to other jurisdictions.

Keywords: Empirical Legal Studies, Blood Money, Tort Law, Medical Malpractice Litigation, Doctors, Insurance, Settlements, Incentives, Personal Bankruptcy, Homestead Exemption

JEL Classification: G22, K35, K41

Suggested Citation

Baker, Tom and Helland, Eric A. and Klick, Jonathan, Everything's Bigger in Texas: Except the Medmal Settlements (2016). Connecticut Insurance Law Journal, Vol. 22, P. 1, 2016; Claremont McKenna College Robert Day School of Economics and Finance Research Paper No. 2865900; U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 16-27. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2865900

Tom Baker (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-746-2185 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.upenn.edu/cf/faculty/thbaker/

Eric A. Helland

Claremont McKenna College - Robert Day School of Economics and Finance ( email )

500 E. Ninth St.
Claremont, CA 91711-6420
United States
909-607-7275 (Phone)
909-621-8243 (Fax)

RAND ( email )

1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA
United States

Jonathan Klick

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
2157463455 (Phone)

Erasmus School of Law ( email )

3000 DR Rotterdam
Netherlands

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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