Talking Points in Support of Special Liability Protection in Emergency Care Cases

  • Emergency medicine is an essential public service that involves unique challenges and circumstances that should be recognized and addressed in state medical liability statutes.

  • Emergency physicians must make immediate, lifesaving decisions regarding diagnosis and treatment without the benefit of a prior relationship to the patient and often without any knowledge of the patient's medical history.

  • Emergency physicians are mandated by federal law (and in some cases, similar state laws) to treat anyone who comes to an emergency department, regardless of the nature, severity or complexity of their condition.

  • Emergency physicians treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay and provide a large and growing amount of uncompensated and undercompensated care.

  • The high-risk nature of emergency medicine results in escalating liability insurance rates. These skyrocketing costs coupled with lost revenue from uncompensated care seriously threaten the future viability of the emergency care system.

  • Many insurers will not write policies for emergency physicians; resulting in a crisis of availability, as well as affordability of insurance in many parts of the country.

  • Other specialists providing essential on-call services to emergency patients are often in critically short supply, due largely to increased liability exposure, higher liability premiums and reduced reimbursements for providing emergency care. State liability laws should not act to further discourage these specialists from agreeing to provide vital on-call services to emergency patients.

  • Several other states have recognized the unique needs and circumstances of emergency care and have enacted special liability protections for emergency care providers, including placing lower caps on non-economic damages and requiring a higher standard of negligence that must be proven in emergency care cases.

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