Tort reform in West Virginia

By Robert L. Ghiz, MD

How do you measure the beneficial effects of legislation? Is it an increase in the number of physicians in the state? Is it the ease of recruiting physicians who are willing to visit and consider practicing here? Is it the ability to attract highly specialized physicians for tertiary care? Is it the lowering of premiums for liability insurance? Is it the reduction in the number and severity of claims? Is it the number of liability carriers who are willing to write insurance in the state? The answer to most of the above questions in West Virginia is yes.

West Virginia enacted medical liability tort reform four times in the last 10 years. In 1987, legislation placed a $1 million cap on noneconomic damages in medical liability cases. In 2001, all medical liability lawsuits were required to have a certificate of merit. In 2003, the cap on noneconomic damages was lowered to $250,000 and joint and several liability reforms were enacted. Finally, 2004 saw the passage of “I’m sorry” legislation. Most physicians and attorneys believe these reforms have had a beneficial effect on the practice of medicine in the state.

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