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Proposed bill would change medical malpractice cases in Georgia

Many Georgia residents are affected by medical malpractice each year. Some who are hurt by a hospital or doctor error can suffer ongoing medical issues that can ultimately cost in the millions of dollars and last throughout their lives. A number of these victims rely on personal injury attorneys to represent their cases and work to get them compensation for their suffering.

A bill just introduced in the Senate aims to treat medical malpractice like workers' compensation, with complaints brought before a panel of doctors instead of going directly to court. State Bill 141 proposes to pay approved claims out of a provider-paid fund, also very similar to the way workers' compensation is paid out. Legislators who support this bill say that in time it will lower employers' health insurance costs and provider liability insurance premiums.

Georgia's Supreme Court already ruled a cap of $350,000 for malpractice awards unconstitutional three years ago. Personal injury lawyers have argued that limiting awards doesn't give patients fair compensation for their medical expenses and suffering. In addition, a cap may not hold doctors accountable for their negligence and doesn't enforce better standards of care.

An argument against the bill that may prove the most pertinent to patients and attorneys alike is the removal of the right to a jury of their peers. Patients who have become the victims of any kind of doctor mistake may feel their interests are better served in court rather than being judged by a panel of doctors. Anyone suffering from injury or illness by medical negligence is still entitled to legal representation.

Source: The Florida Times-Union, "Bill would take medical malpractice out of courts, put it before physicians panel," Walter C. Jones, Feb. 8, 2013

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