Finding an attorney to represent you with your medical malpractice case can feel frustrating, and rightfully so. As a result of the recent tort reform, legislation has made it more difficult for an injured person to pursue a lawsuit since jury awards are now "capped" at a maximum of $350,000 for pain and suffering over the course of a lifetime. This means that unless there are substantial damages for future medical care or lost income resulting from disability, that the damages that a court can award may not justify the tremendous expense of expert witness fees and extensive depositions that are necessary to prove the case.
The reason for the change is that legislators felt that surgeons, pharmacists, and doctors were too often subjected to frivolous lawsuits, and so they set in motion a tort reform that changed the way medical malpractice cases were dealt with. While the tort reform affected frivolous lawsuits, it also made it much more difficult for the victim to receive the compensation that they deserve.
We cannot recommend that an injured client pursue a case where two-thirds or more of the recoverable damages may be consumed by the need for expensive expert witness fees, lengthy discovery, and attorney fees. This is the primary reason that the Missouri Superintendent of Insurance reported that following the tort reform legislation of 2005, the volume of newly filed medical malpractice cases dropped more than 50%. Many law firms that formerly specialized in defending malpractice cases have reduced their staff or gone out of business. Lest anyone think this was caused by lawyers filing frivolous suits, you should know that insurance companies continue to charge doctors high premiums for their malpractice coverage, despite the dramatic drop in claims. Until this becomes common public knowledge and consumer groups begin lobbying the Missouri Legislature to change the law, many injured patients will not receive any justice.