Early Offer Bill May Unfairly Pressure Patients to Settle
Brunswick, GA (Law Firm Newswire) November 23, 2012 – New Jersey Assemblywoman Amy H. Handlin recently proposed a bill to reform how medical malpractice complaints can be settled to address a doctor shortage and reduce medical malpractice rates.
The bill, A-3293, is designed to offer injured patients, as well as their healthcare providers, the ability to use an “early offer” mediation process.
Bill A-3293 would enable medical injury claims to be resolved voluntarily in lieu of a lawsuit for parties wishing to settle their complaint quickly and without legal support.
Handlin stated that New Jersey continues to have issues attracting and holding onto high-quality physicians, due to the high rates for medical malpractice insurance. Using a process for Early Offer mediation is designed to lower medical malpractice rates, reducing both time and money spent on the legal system. Handlin predicts an eventual shortage of approximately 3,000 doctors in New Jersey without serious reform, as studies indicate that 1 in 10 doctors plan to leave New Jersey.
“While the concept of expedited payment may seem attractive to patients, it may not always be in their best interest to accept a settlement without discussing with an attorney the extent of what they may be legally entitled to,” stated Brunswick personal injury attorney Nathan Williams.
An injured patient would be able to request an “early offer” of settlement from their healthcare provider. If the request is accepted by the provider, they would work together to negotiate a settlement to reimburse the patient, based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Practitioner Data Bank severity scale for injuries, attorneys fees and economic losses.
A similar reform bill was enacted in New Hampshire, where, if the plaintiff chose to not to accept the early offer and opted to proceed to trial, the loser would be liable for both legal and court fees. While proponents of the bill support the early offer system as a way to lower medical malpractice insurance costs and streamline the tort system, critics of the early settlement systems are concerned that some patients may end up with low compensation figures and may feel pressured to give up legal rights without adequate representation.
Nathan Williams is a Brunswick personal injury lawyer, Brunswick divorce attorney, Brunswick criminal defense attorney and Brunswick DUI lawyer in Southeast Georgia. Visit http://www.thewilliamslitigationgroup.com or call 1.912.264.0848.
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