The Impact of State Laws Limiting Malpractice Awards on the Geographic Distribution of Physicians

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This study examines the impact of State legislation that caps damage awards in malpractice cases on decisions of physicians about where to practice medicine.

Twenty-four States now have laws that limit damage payments in malpractice cases.Most of these laws limit the amounts paid for non economic damages (e.g., pain and suffering) but a few limit both economic (e.g., medical expenses and lost wages) and non-economic damages. There is currently a national debate on the desirability of extending caps on malpractice damage awards to all States. Supporters of legislation to cap damages in malpractice cases maintain that it reduces malpractice premiums and helps insure an adequate supply of physicians. They also assert that escalating, multi-million-dollar jury awards are driving malpractice premium increases and that capping damage awards for pain and suffering helps restrain the rate of increase.

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