An initiative to roll back auto insurance rates could overturn medical malpractice reforms, including a tort cap passed two years ago, backers of a competing ballot measure said.
"It is a stealth attack on medical liability reform," said Scott Craigie, a consultant to the doctor-led group Keep Our Doctors in Nevada. The organization's medical malpractice measure has qualified for the November ballot.
Larry Matheis, executive director of the Nevada State Medical Association, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal for a Tuesday report that the auto insurance rollback plan "is sort of flying under false colors."
"The only observable beneficiaries are personal injury lawyers," he said.
The auto insurance petition and an accompanying measure were filed with the Nevada secretary of state on April 16 by Las Vegas resident Carmen Cashman and a group called People for a Better Nevada.
An accompanying measure, called the Stop Frivolous Lawsuits and Protect Your Legal Rights Act, would prohibit limitations on attorneys' fees. Both measures would amend the Nevada Constitution.
Las Vegas attorney Gerald Gillock, who speaks for the Nevada Trial Lawyers Association on medical malpractice insurance issues, said Craigie and Matheis "are just wrong."
"As far as I know, there is no indication that this is anything more than a sincere effort to get an across-the-board insurance rollback and make insurance companies accountable, at least in the state of Nevada," Gillock said.
But Gillock acknowledged that under the petition's provisions, existing caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases could be eliminated. They would be eliminated if proof of reductions in the malpractice insurance rates paid by doctors, along with proof of reductions in medical malpractice payouts, could not be shown.
Craigie said that if Cashman's two petitions qualify for the ballot, rates could go up due to uncertainty about the future of medical malpractice reform in Nevada.
Because the auto insurance proposal is a constitutional amendment, it would take precedence over the November ballot measure being pushed by doctors to implement tougher medical malpractice reforms than those adopted by the Legislature in 2002, Craigie said.
At that time, the Legislature approved a $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases but included some exceptions to the limit. Doctors qualified their proposal for the November ballot because they did not believe the 2002 law went far enough.
The doctors' measure, if approved by voters, would supersede the 2002 law and remove all exemptions to the $350,000 cap and would limit attorney fees.