What Does Tort Reform Mean for the Average American?

Think that people who sue for personal injury and medical malpractice get too much for too little, that they need to be reigned in, that it’s a scam or a lawyer’s trick? Perhaps you agree with those who think that we can’t let people get millions of dollars for their injuries, because it’s not like getting millions of dollars is going to make the injury go away, right?

 

So, what exactly does tort reform mean for the average, hard-working American?

Caps on damages…and a life of poverty and struggle for victims of negligence.

How far does $1,650,000 go? Is that a lot of money? Imagine if you were the victim of a catastrophic injury that left you homebound and needing extensive medical care. I bet that money seems like a windfall, right?

Perhaps it is, relatively speaking. But say it’s all the money you have until your death. You’ll live an average life of 76 years, and you’re 46 now.

Take that $1,650,000 and divide that by 30. That’s about $55,000 per year. Is that a lot of money?

Now, from that $55,000, subtract 1/3 for taxes. That’s about $36,300. Is that a lot of money?

Now, divide that by 12. That’s about $3,025 per month. Is that a lot of money?

Now, think of all of your monthly expenses subtract from $3,025:

– Your mortgage or rent

– Your utilities

– Your healthcare

– Your transportation

– Your insurance

– Food

– Clothing

– Your children’s education

– $100,000 in medical bills in arrears

– $100,000 in other debts in arrears

– penalties and interest on those debts

Do you have any money left over? Really? Wow. Now subtract $2,000 from that for the monthly health expenses that your insurance doesn’t cover.

Do you still have a lot of money?

Sure, you had a salary. Perhaps your spouse worked, too. Maybe you have savings, a pension, or a 401k. If you’re the victim of a medical malpractice that keeps you from working, your salary and those savings are out the door. You cashed in you 401k early, too, because your debtors don’t wait to find out if you’ll win your medical malpractice case to demand their money. If you’re lucky, you still have a house. Of course, if you had to sell your house, you may be living somewhere much smaller and cheaper, and your children are learning to make do without.

But not all is lost. You’re on SSDI now, so add that back to what you earn a month, and you’re on Medicaid and Food Stamps, too. If you’ve lost enough of your possessions, through repossession, selling them, or defaulting on the loans, you may even qualify for monthly Welfare benefits. Perhaps you filed Chapter 7, so no more credit card payments…all you have to do is keep paying back those school loans you can’t discharge for a college degree you can’t use anymore. And the good news is that since you have a life expectancy of 30 more years, you get to live this way for the rest of your life. Don’t worry – your credit will only be shot for seven years, so hopefully, you don’t have to get a car, an apartment, a credit card, or attempt to co-sign on a college loan for your kid during that time.

You’re only about 46 years old. You’re supposed to be in your prime earning years, but chances are, you will never earn a cent again. Your spouse has gone from being your friend, lover, and confidant to your nurse, if they’re still around. You’re not Mom or Dad now the way you used to be; you don’t want to become a burden on your children, but frankly, everyone needs to pitch in now to help you.

BUT…

…that’s not if you’re a victim of medical malpractice in Illinois.

HOWEVER…. if you’re the victim of medical malpractice in Indiana, that’s your life after a catastrophic injury, because the cap on all medical malpractice verdicts is $1,650,000, regardless of your damages. Have $2,000,000 in medical expenses? Sorry. You don’t get $2,000,000.  You get $1,650,000. The other $350,000 is going to have to come from someone other than the person or entity that caused the injury in the first place.

In fact, you don’t even get $1,650,000, because you have to pay your legal fees because the attorneys and doctors who helped you get justice can’t work for free for two, three years until the settlement or verdict.

Your health insurance rates would go…nowhere. Malpractice defense is a drop in the bucket.

The reason your health insurance rates are going up has nothing to do with medical malpractice cases. Medical malpractice doesn’t come out of your insurance.

Only 2% of all claims filed every year are medical malpractice claims. We know this because these claims are all public records. Not all of them will go on to a settlement or a verdict. 90% of those cases will settle. The settlement doesn’t come out of YOUR insurance. Your doctor has malpractice insurance for a reason.

If you think about, it’s really putting the cart before the horse. The real question is: why is our medical care so expensive?

The injured would have less ability to seek compensation.

One of the myths I see still bandied around is that medical negligence and personal injury suits are frivolous in nature, because of the prevailing myth that you can sue anyone for anything in America. That’s true only to the extent that you have a plausible cause of action against that person.

You can’t go to circuit court, file a lawsuit against someone for any reason, and just go your merry way. “Frivolous” doesn’t mean shocking or makes good clickbait. The word “frivolous” in a legal sense refers to a claim that the claimant knows is without merit because there is a lack of facts to support the claim or there is no legal argument supporting the claim. Most of the time, when you read a shocking news bit about a personal injury suit in which someone wins a lot of money for what the writer frames as a relatively small injury, assume that you’re not getting most of the facts, and the writer doesn’t have most of the facts, either.

In Illinois, every medical malpractice lawsuit must be filed with an affidavit testifying to the facts and an independent report from a doctor supporting the claim for medical malpractice. This puts both the doctor and the lawyer on the line professionally and legally for what they claim on the affidavit.

It is already sufficiently difficult to file a medical malpractice suit or a personal injury suit.

Money can’t make the injury go away, but it can solve the financial problems that an injury causes.

One car accident. One broken staircase. One medical error. One misdiagnosis. One faulty product. One person not looking where they’re going.

One time. Just one time is all it takes.

One times is all it takes to go from someone who’s healthy and strong to someone who isn’t, and a crisis doesn’t discriminate. Even the most careful people can’t control what others will do or fail to do.

If you’ve suffered an injury or medical practice, you may be entitled to compensation. An experienced attorney knows whether you can seek damages for your loss. An experience personal injury lawyer can help determine if you have a case and if so, help you get the money you need to help you put your life back together.

Call 312-884-9163 to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you.

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