There has been a surge in medical malpractice cases across the USA and its overseas territory. WMMT News has tracked up to 400% spikes in medical malpractice cases, with over 70s especially highlighted in new data. This shows the stress that hospitals are under, but it also shows the stress being placed upon the healthcare system and the legal justice that underpins patient care. As these cases start to fill the court lists, it’s worth questioning whether patients will be able to access justice effectively and to with the proper backing of the law.
Medical malpractice cases are dealt with by medical negligence lawyers who have a large body of law to work with. The National Conference of State Legislatures highlights the stark differences between states in how this law is applied, and what statutes exist to support federal rules. In Alabama, there are no limitations on the damages that can be awarded in cases; conversely, in Mississippi, one of the states hardest hit by COVID, there is a $500,000 limit on non-economic damages. Deciphering these laws is not easy, and it has been made more difficult by changes to protect businesses.
As Reuters highlights, there have been legal changes to the liability businesses face. This includes laws to change whether doctors can be sued, and also as to whether nursing homes can face liability for deaths inside their care. These are relatively sweeping changes that have largely hamstrung the work that lawyers can do to support their clients, and points to a more worrying future trend.
With these changes comes a lack of discipline. The US healthcare system is structured in such a way that litigation and medical penalties remain the driver behind balance and good care. As USA Today notes, the amount of medical malpractice and negligence cases has plummeted since COVID struck, and this is remaining the primary trend. This is worrying for long-term care because it places medical work outside of the normal bounds of the law. There is less recourse for justice available in the system, and patients may end up getting caught up.
For this reason, it’s arguable that the law needs to change. Once the emergency is reverted, lawmakers must look at state and federal protections anew. Only through proper review can patients start finding justice again.