In a bold move, the New Hampshire Legislature has overridden Governor John Lynch’s (D) veto, and enacted a new, first of it’s kind “early offer” program for dealing with medical malpractice claims.
The new law incentivizes defendants in medical malpractice cases to make settlement offers early in the litigation process. Compensation is intended to cover the plaintiff’s economic losses, such as medical bills and lost employment, as well as a modest allotment for pain and suffering. If plaintiffs accept the early offer, they will receive the settlement money within a few months without the time, expense and uncertainty of a trial.
However, if the plaintiff chooses not to accept the settlement and instead wishes to proceed to trial, the new legislation makes the loser liable for the other party’s legal expanses. Specifically, the bill states that plaintiffs who are not awarded at least 125% of the early offer amount will be responsible for the medical providers “reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.”
Proponents of the bill believe that the early offer system will lower the cost of malpractice insurance, speed up the slow tort system and offer injured patients a way to get settlements quickly and more easily. Opponents, including Gov. Lynch, believe that it puts injured patients at a disadvantage.
Gov. Lynch also took issue with another provision of the bill requiring the injured patient to post a bond before entering the court system. In his veto message, he stated that he felt that the bill “lacks certain fundamental safeguards that are necessary to protect injured patients.”
Despite his veto, the bill was passed by the state Legislature, making New Hampshire the first state in the country to enact an early offer system.
- “NH Legislature overrides malpractice reform veto.” Boston.com. Web. 27 June 2012.
- “Medical malpractice reform in New Hampshire.” PointOfLaw.com. Web. 3 July 2012.
- “Patient centered medical malpractice reform in New Hampshire.” KevinMD.com. Web. May 2012.