Study: The poor and elderly are “silent victims” of the medical malpractice system
Monday, January 6, 2014
Vanderbilt Law Review: Emory University School of Law associate professor Joanna Shepherd has conducted a study in which she found “many victims of medical malpractice do not file claims because they are unable to find attorneys willing to take their cases.” Tort reforms, including caps on damage awards for victims of medical negligence, have made it difficult for attorneys to justify the expense involved in pursuing the vast majority of malpractice cases. Shepherd reports that, for most of the attorneys she surveyed, “even for a case they are almost certain to win on the merits, they will not accept the case unless expected damages are at least $250,000. For a case in which winning is less certain, most attorneys require minimum expected damages of $500,000 to accept the case.” California limits non-economic damages in malpractice cases to $250,000, which has a significant impact on poor end elderly victims who do not have the kind of lost wages that lead to notable economic damages.