A narrow focus on marketing and search engine optimization is a missed opportunity for law firm bloggers to shape public policy in a way that benefits their clients and their practices.
Several months ago news outlets reported an alarming statistic: The maternal death rate in the United States is worse than any other developed nation. What’s more, between 2000 and 2014, the maternal death rate rose 27 percent in the United States, according to a research report published in the September 2016 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
And then this: Researchers found that while California succeeded in decreasing its numbers, maternal death rates in Texas climbed like no other state in the nation. In Texas in 2010, 72 women died of complications related to pregnancy. By 2012, that number had more-than-doubled to 148.
A “maternal death” is the death of a woman that occurs during her pregnancy, during childbirth, or shortly after childbirth.
None of the articles I read made a connection between the Texas civil justice system and the tragic state of maternal mortality in the state. In fact, to the extent that an explanation was offered, fingers were pointed at the state government’s failure to fund women’s health programs (e.g., Planned Parenthood) and the high number of uninsured Texas residents. Twenty percent of Texas residents lack health insurance. No state other state performs worse.
I recently wrote a longish article on medical malpractice for a Texas law firm, where I learned that Texas has a very aggressive “tort reform” law in place. Under the Texas Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform Act, “pain and suffering” damages against all doctors and health care providers are capped at $250,000 (the cap is $500,000 against health care facilities).
Texas law drastically diminishes the financial incentive to file medical malpractice lawsuits in all but the most egregious cases. “Pain and suffering” awards allow injured plaintiffs to compensate their attorneys, who customarily work on contingent fees. Even in cases of clear malpractice, the indigent, the young and the elderly have difficulty obtaining legal counsel because they will not have suffered significant income losses or incurred medical expenses substantial enough to make litigation against the doctors and insurance companies worthwhile.
The result is that many medical malpractice victims in Texas never have their day in court and are never compensated for their losses. Not surprisingly, medical malpractice insurance rates in Texas are among the lowest in the nation. While the number of malpractice complaints filed with the Texas Medical Board are near an all-time high, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits has been falling for years.
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