Medical Liability

Overview of Medical Liability

The current medical liability system fails both patients and health care providers. Far too many medical liability lawsuits are frivolous, and too few patients actually injured by medical care receive just compensation. Excessive damage awards, exorbitant attorneys’ fees, rising malpractice premiums, and costly defensive medicine practices have greatly contributed to rising health care costs and undermined the role of the physician.

For these reasons, the AAFP views medical liability reform as a high priority, and calls on Congress and the White House to address this critical issue in a substantive way. We believe a new balance must be struck that ensures prompt compensation for those truly injured in the course of medical care, but prevents the needless diversion of limited health care dollars. We can decrease the cost of health care by reducing liability insurance premiums, reducing exorbitant legal fees associated with litigation, and by ending the need to practice defensive medicine.

In pursuit of that balance, AAFP has drawn from key efforts made at the state level:

  • For decades, California’s highly-effective tort reforms have served as a model for effective federal reform by reducing attorney fees and placing a greater share of insurer payouts in the hands of injured patients. THe AAFP recognizes this success and seeks to promote a similar approach nationwide.
  • A growing number of states are adopting tort reform provisions that require plaintiffs to present “clear and convincing evidence” of provider malpractice. We agree that a higher threshold of proof is an essential component of true reform.
  • The AAFP has long advocated for limits on non-economic damage awards. We also support limits on attorneys’ contingency fees and requirements that awards be reduced by the amount of compensation derived from collateral sources.
  • AAFP supports the replacement of joint and several liability with proportionate liability, so each party would pay a share of a malpractice award based on the proportion for which he or she is liable and the allowance of periodic payments of future damages at a defined award limit.

The AAFP will continue to work on behalf of our members to help establish a fair and equitable medical-legal environment that protects patients and family physicians.    

Recent AAFP Communications

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