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Will a no-fault fund shield negligent doctors?

When a doctor’s negligence results in a birth injury, he or she may eventually have to answer for that conduct before a jury in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Yet some states have established a controversial no-fault fund, possibly to the detriment of that principle of accountability.

Virginia and Florida are two states with such a no-fault fund, where babies born with injuries might qualify for compensation without having to resort to the court system. According to a recent report, lawmakers in Maryland are considering a similar measure. 

Proponents of the no-fault approach believe it may curb medical malpractice litigation costs and even increase prenatal care access. According to that viewpoint, malpractice awards might drive providers away.

Yet at least one patients' rights advocate disagrees, claiming that a common fund could unintentionally protect negligent doctors. The advocate also fears that the parents of an injured newborn might be persuaded into accepting unjust compensation from a no-fault fund, rather than pursuing the full amount of damages they deserve in the uncertain playing field of a courtroom.

Although there are no guarantees in court, a skilled medical malpractice attorney knows that presenting a strong case can persuade the opposing party, in addition to the jurors. For example, a defendant who fears that he or she might be losing may come forward at the last minute with a favorable settlement offer.

It’s vitally important that injured patients purse the compensation they need to cover the costs of their long-term care. In the case of a birth defect, those damages should also include potential loss of earnings as an adult, depending on the severity of the birth injury. The bottom line is that an attorney can help a victim of doctor or hospital negligence fight for a fair compensation.

Source: Baltimore Sun, “State panel recommends creation of a birth injury fund,” Meredith Cohn, Dec. 24, 2014

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