PointofLaw.com responds to the NY Times piece on malpractice

Yesterday’s article takes a fairly standard attack on tort reform, popularized by some who read this blog. Walter Olson responds:

In any event, consider the centerpiece graphic of the Times piece, which plots the rise of rates and payouts since 1975 based on data from the highly regarded firm of A.M. Best. (I suggest keeping it open in a second window.) If I were trying to get people to believe that there’s no connection between high courtroom payouts and high rates charged for malpractice insurance, I must say this is the very last chart I’d ever let them see, because it tends so strongly to show the two lining up together over the long term.

Ted Frank also comments:

Opponents of medical malpractice reform make a variety of assertions about the subject in an effort to persuade. But if all of these assertions are true, then trial lawyers are wasting their time lobbying and issuing press releases. They have the power to solve the medical malpractice insurance crisis by themselves—and can make more money doing it.

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  • Curious JD

    Did you notice anything about the chart? Malpractice rates make steep jumps when? When the stock market is down. The payouts increase consistently in line with the rate of inflation for medical services. Since malpractice payouts for economic damages naturally go up as medical services go up (they are reimbursing medical expenses mostly), this is not surprising.

    What you won’t find are dramatic increases in payouts at the times of the sharp jumps in premiums.

    Also, note how Mr. Frank and Mr. Olson always find room to cite how much insurers lost in ’03, but never give you their historical profits. Why is that?

    The truth is that most states show a pretty consistent number of claims over the last 10 years, with the exception of those years when state’s enact tort reform as cases are filed to beat the effective date. And the evidence is that whether a state has caps or not, it still experiences those same rises in premiums.

    For a look at the history of the tort reform movement in all areas and who is backing it, try this article:

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0410.mencimer.html

    And while I know you are all acutely aware of the conflict of interest that you believe Plaintiff’s lawyers have, never forget where Mr. Frank and Mr. Olson make their money. It ain’t representing individuals. They represent corporate clients who have a major stake in tort reform. And they are no doubt very good lawyers. Make sure your skeptical attitude toward lawyers and their assertions is applied equally.

  • Curious JD

    But it was nice to see Mr. Olson and Mr. Frank come out with the standard attacks on the civil justice system that holds their clients liable for their wrongdoing. It probably wouldn’t be a full day for them if they weren’t trying to keep the courthouse closed to all but those who could afford their $250+/hr fees.

    You just sleep better at night knowing that the insurance industry and corporate America hasn’t slowed down its attacks on individual’s access to the courts. If they ever do, best get your affairs in order, because the apocalypse is nigh.

  • Anonymous

    Here is a timely link to malpracice articles:

    http://badpractice.blogspot.com

  • Ted

    Hey, curiousjd,

    Mr. Olson isn’t a lawyer, so he doesn’t represent anyone.

    Your comments demonstrate you haven’t even read Mr. Olson’s refutation, much less my modest proposal for how trial lawyers can simultaneously prove that tort reformers are wrong while reducing insurance rates for doctors. If insurers make so much profit in medical malpractice insurance, why don’t we see any trial lawyers competing for that insurance business? Ms. Mencimer doesn’t answer that question, either, so no use citing to that piece.

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