What Medical Malpractice Victims Need to Know About Oklahoma’s Tort Reform Law
When you’ve been injured by a medical professional’s negligence, the emotional toll can be overwhelming. When doctors make life-changing mistakes, it can take months and years not only to recover (if you ever recover at all), but to regain your sense of self, enjoyment, and purpose in the world.
Individuals who have been harmed by medical malpractice deserve compensation to take care of themselves and their families, but previous laws in Oklahoma capped damages at $350,000. Thankfully, a recent change in the law now makes it possible for victims to receive amounts more commensurate with their injuries.
If you’ve been harmed by a doctor’s negligence, keep reading to learn what this update to the law could mean for you.
What Was Tort Reform in Oklahoma?
“Tort reform” laws in Oklahoma were designed to prevent frivolous lawsuits against good doctors. Previously, these laws limited a victim’s ability to recoup non-economic damages after devasting injuries as a result of a doctor or medical professional’s negligence. Non-economic damages are compensation for suffering unrelated to a victim’s financial losses. Pain, suffering, the emotional toll of the injuries, loss of enjoyment in life, and even exacerbated existing injuries can all be considered non-economic damages.
In theory, damage caps make medical malpractice lawsuits more “fair” by ensuring that no victim receives far more or far less than any other injured person. However, these caps also serve to cheat victims out of resources they need to recover, take care of their families, and live full lives after devasting injuries.
Tort reform is also meant to protect qualified doctors whose practices and careers would be decimated through lawsuits. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. According to the Center for Justice and Democracy, tort reform caps make healthcare more expensive and lead to more physician error.
Supreme Court Ruling Nullifies Oklahoma Tort Reform
On April 22, 2019, the Oklahoma Supreme Court passed a ruling that nullified the tort reform damage cap set in 2004. Formerly limited to $350,000, victims of medical malpractice are now eligible to receive fair amounts relative to the suffering they endure due to a doctor’s or medical professional’s negligence.
The original reform was part of an effort to make Oklahoma more business-friendly; unfortunately, that came at the expense of its residents. This nullification is part of a movement to create more just opportunities for Oklahoma malpractice victims.
Tort Reform Ruling Important for Medical Malpractice Victims
When victims seek justice for their exacerbated injuries and illnesses, a jury decides the damages victims are owed — a process based on testimony and evidence. Victims with significant conditions that will require a lifetime of care are now able to recoup damages that ensures the highest level of medical in the future.
However, special interest groups have already voiced their displeasure and concerns. These groups are worried that without damage caps in place, doctors will not want to practice law in Oklahoma for fear of being sued. However, the Center for Justice and Democracy also found that the threat of medical malpractice lawsuits actually improved physician performance and that states with damage caps did not see a surge in the number of physicians compared to those without.
Atkins & Markoff: Getting Oklahoma Medical Malpractice Victims Justice
If you have suffered illness or injury as a result of a healthcare professional’s negligence, please contact Atkins & Markoff. We understand how devastating injuries can be and work hard to protect our clients and their families through every legal option available.
To learn how the newly eliminated medical malpractice damage cap might affect your case and to receive your free, no-obligation consultation, please complete this brief form or call us at (405) 622-5953.
(2014, October 27). Fact Sheet: New Studies Show “Caps” On Damages Ruin Health Care. Center for Justice & Democracy. Retrieved from https://centerjd.org/content/fact-sheet-new-studies-show-caps-damages-ruin-health-care#_edn
Hoberock, B. (2019, April 23). Oklahoma Supreme Court nullifies damages cap for pain and suffering. Tulsa World. Retrieved from https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/state-and-regional/oklahoma-supreme-court-nullifies-damages-cap-for-pain-and-suffering/article_84629bb9-f3bb-544e-9fa7-b135b5a34825.html
Newcomb, T. (2019, April 26). Tulsa Couple Hopes Court Ruling Will Help Get Justice For Son. Oklahoma’s Own News 6. Retrieved from https://www.newson6.com/story/40376705/tulsa-couple-hopes-court-ruling-will-help-get-justice-for-son
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.