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Nursing Home Victims Explain Consequences of Tort Reform Laws

Our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers have been forcefully fighting against federal tort reform legislation that would take away rights from medical malpractice victims as well as those who receive inadequate care in nursing homes. The dangers of the measure are clearly visible on its face. But if any more support is needed, one need only look at specific states where similar measures have passed.

Take Texas.

Fox News Dallas-Fort Worth recently profiled various families in Texas who have been adversely affected by the legislation. One of those families had a loved one who died as a result of nursing home neglect. Three years ago the couple was at the bedside of their loved one (the woman’s father) when a nurse forced medication in the senior’s feeding tube using a syringe. The family claims that the liquid went into the man’s lungs. They explain that they saw him kicking his arms and legs struggling after receiving the medication because he was essentially drowning. They report with anguish that they literally saw the life leave him. He passed away shortly after the receiving the medication.

An investigation into the allegations of nursing home neglect conducted by the state’s Board of Nursing found that the nurse committed a string of errors. In addition, they found that the facility administrators directed the nurse to wrongly alter her medical records.

The family has wanted to file suit to hold the facility accountable for the conduct, however the limits on the non-economic damages make it economically unfeasible to pursue the case. Even before the law passed, there was always high legal cost associated with pursuing these cases. Conducting investigations, taking depositions, getting legal experts, and other requirements are expensive and must be bore by the plaintiff. Yet, when possible damage awards are decimated by arbitrary laws, those costs essentially make it impossible to feasibly pursue certain cases, like this one. Our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers know that the result is that vast amounts of mistreatment that otherwise would lead to accountability go without any punishment.

The costs of this legislation are very significant for thousands of families.

Yet, these measures continue to be pursued in large part because of misguided assumptions about potential benefit of the laws. Members of the community are convinced to support these measures by claims of health care costs savings by essentially immunizing some medical providers from real liability. The evidence clearly demonstrates that those supposed cost saving are illusory.

Records from Texas bear this out. For example, health care insurance costs for residents have actually increased faster than the national average in the state since the enactment of tort reform laws. This is the exact opposite of claims that insurance rates will go down when the legislation passes. Instead, the real winners of the tort reform laws have been insurance companies who have been able to cut their payouts significantly and maximize their profits considerably. Similarly, many large health industry companies have been able to face less accountability for their errors without having to lower the actual costs of medical care.

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