Medical Malpractice Reform: What Works and What Doesn’t

18 Pages Posted: 16 May 2019

See all articles by W. Kip Viscusi

W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

Date Written: March 18, 2019

Abstract

Concerns with medical malpractice liability costs have been a principal factor leading states to adopt a series of tort liability reforms. Medical malpractice premiums have been declining, creating less of a cost-based impetus for additional reforms. The most consistent empirical evidence indicating statistically significant effects of medical malpractice reforms has been for caps on non-economic damages. Damages caps reduce insurance losses and foster insurer profitability, consistent with the objective of caps. The impacts of caps are greatest for insurance companies that otherwise would have experienced the greatest losses in the state. However, caps may reduce payouts to plaintiffs, potentially reducing the funds available to cover economic losses and attorney fees. A more recent medical malpractice reform, apology laws, may have a counterproductive effect by encouraging apologies that have the unintended consequence of increasing litigation and damages payments. There is also evidence that medical malpractice reforms affect the delivery of medical care and the supply of physicians, but these effects are not as prominent as the impacts on payouts. Medical malpractice liability remains an inefficient way to transfer funds to injured patients. The share of litigation and defense expenses relative to costs remains high. The early offer reform proposal is one approach that is directed at reducing these costs.

Keywords: medical malpractice, tort reform, noneconomic damages, liability crisis, early offer

JEL Classification: K13, K41, G22, H13

Suggested Citation

Viscusi, W. Kip, Medical Malpractice Reform: What Works and What Doesn’t (March 18, 2019). Denver Law Review, Forthcoming; Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 19-16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3379720

W. Kip Viscusi (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-343-7715 (Phone)
615-322-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

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