Do Non-Economic Damages Caps and Attorney Fee Limits Reduce Access to Justice for Victims of Medical Negligence?

Published In: Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, v. 6, no. 4, Dec. 2009, p. 637-686

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2008

by Steven Garber, Michael D. Greenberg, Hilary J. Rhodes, Xiaohui Zhuo, John L. Adams

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The authors analyze effects of noneconomic damages caps and attorney fee limits (AFLs) on the ability of people injured by negligent physicians to retain qualified lawyers to represent them. The authors employ survey data from 965 plaintiffs' attorneys who reported likelihood of accepting hypothetical meritorious cases described by scenarios. The authors estimate how willingness to accept such cases increases with the expected hourly fees associated with them, and the estimates suggest substantial effects and plausible tradeoffs. The authors conclude that caps and AFLs make it harder to retain counsel in various circumstances, and they present policy simulations elucidating how several factors combine to determine these effects.

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