It is not uncommon for states to implement a screening process for medical malpractice cases before they reach the trial stage of litigation. With rising health care costs and a substantial amount of frivolous lawsuits, it is understandable that states would want to prevent expensive litigation from taking place over a matter that could have been solved from the outset. To date, Kentucky is one of the few states that have held off on requiring a screening panel to review the merits of a medical malpractice case prior to the case proceeding to trial. However, that may be changing.
Kentucky bill SB4 was introduced in the Senate and passed this past January. The bill, among other things, seeks to establish a medical review panel system for use in civil litigation relating to health care providers, including sections setting out definitions, delineating covered health care facilities and providers, panel membership and formation, functions and deliberations of the panel, and utilization of panel results in civil actions. The review panel would consist of one attorney and three health care providers. Within six months of the panel’s selection, it would be expected to issue an opinion about the merits of the case. Once an opinion is rendered, it would be admissible as one piece of evidence in a subsequent lawsuit in court.
While the ideas contained within the bill may initially read as burdensome for potential plaintiffs, a clause exists which would enable the case to move straight to the trial stage if all involved parties agree to waive the screening panel procedure.
The amount of money awarded in Kentucky-based medical malpractice cases has declined from $61 million in 2005 to $41 million in 2015 but those numbers do not include cases that were settled or dismissed while still creating an economic strain for health care providers.
The possible implementation of a screening panel may not be the end to medical malpractice reform in Kentucky. There is talk that the state could consider enacting damage caps on medical malpractice based damage awards. Kentucky does not currently impose a statutory cap on damages recovered in medical malpractice actions. However, Kentucky lawmakers are likely to delay consideration of damage caps until 2018 because approving them would require a constitutional amendment.
SB4 passed the Senate vote and now sits in the House. If the bill passes, Kentucky would become the 42nd state to adopt a medical malpractice screening panel statute.
Medical malpractice can have devastating effects that last a lifetime. If you have been injured by a physician’s neglect, attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian will work to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled. Call 800-529-6162 today or contact them online for a free case evaluation. They handle cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
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