Witnesses Deny 'Crisis' in Torts

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 28, 2004 | Go to article overview

Witnesses Deny 'Crisis' in Torts


Byline: Robert Redding Jr., THE WASHINGTON TIMES

ANNAPOLIS - A Senate commission on medical malpractice reform heard testimony yesterday from experts who said Maryland does not face a crisis and lawyers are not to blame for doctors' escalating insurance costs.

"In big trial cases, it is not unusual for the plaintiff to incur costs of $100,000 to $300,000," said Neil Vidmar, a law and psychology professor from Duke University in North Carolina.

He told members of the Senate Special Commission on Medical Malpractice Insurance that plaintiffs win fewer than 30 percent of cases against doctors, and he asked the members not to curb patients' rights for resolution.

The commission was appointed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George's Democrat and a trial lawyer, and is led by Sen. Brian E. Frosh, Montgomery Democrat and a trial lawyer.

Insurance premiums for doctors increased 28 percent this year, and Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland, the state's largest malpractice insurer, has permission to increase rates 33 percent in bills that will be sent to doctors in November.

State officials have said such increases will force doctors out of business or will force them to leave the state. The increases will cost doctors as much as $150,000 a year in premiums.

Some of the witnesses yesterday placed the blame on insurers.

Jay Angoff, a former Missouri insurance commissioner, accused Medical Mutual of charging more than its competitors, overestimating payoffs on future claims and hoarding nearly $80 million.

"It's all guesswork," he said of the 33 percent rate increase. "We are not going to know until 10 years from now, until the claims are paid, whether rates are too high. …

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