Big changes could be coming to Georgia’s medical malpractice laws. The state legislature is currently considering the Patient Injury Act, which would require all claims to be decided by an administrative panel rather than a judge or jury. As Savannah medical malpractice lawyers, we are closely tracking the status of this bill and analyzing the impact it would have on our clients.
Under Senate Bill 141, the current legal process for adjudicating medical malpractice claims would be replaced with the Patients’ Compensation System, which largely mirrors the existing system used for adjudicating workers compensation claims. Applicants would submit their claims to the Office of Medical Review, which would determine whether the claim constitutes a medical injury. If it does, the office notifies the physicians and allows 15 days to respond. If the physician objects to the application, the Office of Medical Review launches an investigation and convenes an independent medical review panel to render a decision.
When a valid medical injury exists, the Office of Compensation determines the appropriate award according to the findings of the panel and a predetermined compensation schedule. A physician will only be found to have committed medical malpractice after a separate finding by the Georgia Composite Medical Board.
Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, sponsored the bill, which has garnered the support of healthcare administrators and providers. Proponents of the bill argue that the new system will reduce healthcare costs by discouraging defensive medicine and provide injured patients timely compensation without the delays of the court system.
However, the Medical Association of Georgia and the State Bar of Georgia both oppose the Patient Injury Act. Physicians are afraid that the new system would increase costs, whereas Georgia attorneys argue that patients would forfeit significant legal rights while receiving very little in return. There are also questions regarding whether the legislation would pass constitutional muster.