Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

West Virginia Sees Malpractice Improvement after Reform

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

West Virginia Sees Malpractice Improvement after Reform

Article excerpt

The malpractice environment may be starting to improve for emergency physicians in West Virginia 2 years after a comprehensive medical liability reform bill was enacted in the state.

"It's probably too early to see a huge improvement," said Frederick Blum, M.D., president-elect of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "But the signs are encouraging."

The first signs are coming from the insurance industry. Loss ratios for medical liability carriers have improved since the reform legislation was passed in 2003, according to a report from the state's insurance commissioner. The percentage of medical liability insurance premiums spent on claims and expenses in the state fell from 134.6% in 2002 to 128.5% in 2003. Ratios above 100% indicate that the insurer has an underwriting loss.

The 2003 law established a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages and set an overall cap of $500,000 on economic and noneconomic damages for injuries sustained at trauma centers. The law also strengthened the qualifications required of an expert witness.

Within weeks of the passage of the law, physicians stopped talking about leaving the state, said Steven Summer, president of the West Virginia Hospital Association. …

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