Georgia Medical Malpractice Legislation Would Put 2005 Tort Law Under the Knife!
Georgia lawmakers are considering legislation which would change a landmark 2005 tort law by shifting the burden of proof against doctors in medical malpractice suits from gross negligence to ordinary negligence; a move which some believe could lead to more of these types of personal injury suits in the Peach State.
Senate Bill 286 would repeal a section of the 2005 tort law which opponents feel gives emergency room physicians too much protection from these personal injury lawsuits, according to a story in the Daily Report.
Current Georgia tort law requires that medical malpractice plaintiffs prove that doctors acted with gross negligence. This Georgia medical malpractice legislation would rather shift the language of the current law to ordinary negligence. Specifically, this bill would replace the phrase in the current law saying that the provider's "actions showed grossed negligence" with a phrase saying that the "provider failed to meet the applicable standard of care." This Georgia personal injury bill would leave other parts of the current law alone, including a $350,000 cap on pain and suffering in medical malpractice suits.
Georgia Senator Seth Harp sponsored this bi-partisan bill. Harp said in the story that lawmakers have begun to realize that the landmark 2005 tort reform law may have gone too far when it comes to medical malpractice.
One Georgia personal injury attorney and proponent of the bill, Robert Frazer, said that an ER doctor could do anything short of intentionally harming someone and there would still not be a personal injury case under the current law. If this language change were to be enacted, Frazer indicated that Georgia personal injury attorneys would be able to take on more medical malpractice cases with much more confidence in their chances.
Donald J. Palmisano Jr., general counsel of the Medical Association of Georgia, was described in the story as saying that this physicians' advocacy group would oppose repealing the current tort law.
According to Harp, a change in the tort law could actually be good for some emergency room doctors in the state. While the landmark 2005 tort law was meant to protect doctors, Harp said that it could actually lead to physicians losing their malpractice insurance coverage since medical insurance policies cover only ordinary negligence but not gross negligence.
Harp further commented that he would happily withdraw this legislation if medical insurance companies were to tell legislators that they would add gross negligence provisions to their policies.
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The Georgia Senate has considered similar proposals to Senate Bill 286 in the past. As an example, the Georgia Senate Judiciary examined comparable legislation last year before it failed to come to a full vote in the Senate. At that time, the chairman of the committee, Preston Smith, said that voting on this measure would lead to unwanted debate on the entire 2005 tort law.
The Daily Report story also detailed that the Georgia Senate agreed to this change in language in 2005. However, in the process of approving this legislation, the phrase was left out of the final version that passed and received a signature from Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue.
If you've suffered a personal injury due to the negligence of a doctor, speak to a local personal injury attorney who can begin to evaluate your case.