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Georgia Lawmaker Seeks to Take Medical Malpractice Claims Out of Courts

A recent bill introduced in the Georgia Senate seeks to take medical malpractice claims out of the State’s court system and have them turned over to a state board. In doing so, medical malpractice claims would be handled similarly to worker’s compensation claims.

Bill introduced in Georgia Senate seeks state board oversight of medical malpractice claims.

Introduced by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), Senate Bill 141, would devise a system whereby patience who had medical malpractice claims, such as physician or hospital error, would submit their complaint to a panel of physicians for a hearing in lieu of filing a lawsuit in court. The physician panel would then determine where the complainant is entitled to compensation. If so, they would pay out the award from a fund all providers contributed to. As such, the medical malpractice system would be structured like the current worker’s compensation system which handles on the job injuries.

Proponents claim new legislation would lower healthcare insurance costs for employers.

Proponents of the bill state that its passage and the implementation of a state board system would simplify the process for handling medical malpractice claims. In addition, they argue that it would reduce healthcare providers’ liability insurance premiums and therefore, lower employers’ health insurance costs. According to these proponents, physicians currently practice “defensive medicine” by ordering unneeded tests in order to protect themselves from legal liability. This practice contributes to heightened health insurance costs which employers are forced to bear. Finally, supporters believe the proposed system would allow patients whose medical malpractice claims are too small for lawyers to take on, to receive compensation.

Prior efforts to limit healthcare provider liability have been thwarted by the Georgia Supreme Court.

This proposed legislation is part of a long line of efforts by Georgia lawmakers to limit the medical malpractice liability of healthcare providers. In 2005, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce spearheaded a campaign which culminated in the legislature establishing a cap on medical malpractice awards. However, in 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court held that placing a $350,000 cap on medical malpractice awards was unconstitutional. Senate Bill 141 attempts to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling by establishing a state board system for adjudicating medical malpractice claims.

Attorneys argue new legislation is unconstitutional.

Medical malpractice attorneys have generally opposed such legislation because it is unconstitutional to take away a patient’s right to make their medical malpractice case in front of a jury of their peers. In addition, the proposed system does not ensure that medical malpractice victims receive just compensation for their injuries and does not provide negligent healthcare professionals with sufficient incentive to improve their standards.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a healthcare provider’s medical negligence, you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can help ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.