Nevada Medical Malpractice Premiums Still High

Who would have thought it? The insurance companies lobbied ferociously and spent millions lying to voters about the necessity of medical malpractice reform (the so-called "Keep Out Doctors in Nevada" initiative), and over a year later, medical malpractice premiums have not gone down in any meaningful way.

In a story two weeks ago by the Reno-Gazette Journal and other newspapers, we learned what many already knew; namely, that changes to Nevada law designed to lower doctors' medical malpractice insurance premiums have yet to do so. Instead, fewer attorneys are taking cases and victims of medical malpractice have fewer rights.

"The biggest effect of the law has been a dramatic cut in malpractice lawsuits. Before the law changed, courts in Las Vegas were averaging a little more than 330 new medical malpractice cases a year. Last year, the number was 160.

Trial attorneys say that with the new law it's not worth pursuing a lawsuit in most cases. Pain-and-suffering judgments are now capped at $350,000, which attorneys say isn't much given the cost of hiring experts and preparing for a malpractice trial.

'I have not accepted a case for investigation because of the initiative,' said Bill Bradley of Reno, who was a spokesman for trial attorneys campaigning against the changes to the law. 'It treats victims so unfair.'

The law was changed by the Legislature in 2002 and voters in 2004 after doctors said skyrocketing insurance premiums were forcing many of them from the state. The law capped the judgment amounts in hopes of reducing premiums, the thinking being that insurers would lower premiums because their liability would be lessened."

But insurance companies haven't significantly lowered their rates and probably never will. When does an insurance company ever pass up the opportunity to make money?