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New Georgia law clarifies basis for medical malpractice claims

When Georgia residents need medical attention, they deserve the best care possible. Unfortunately, the best care possible is not always given to them. When situations arise where a doctor or other provider's negligence causes harm to a patient, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be necessary to obtain compensation for damages suffered by the victim.

Historically, medical malpractice attorneys and physicians' organizations have had found little room for agreement in the legislative arena. A new law, however, has recently passed with support of both groups: the State Physician Shield Act.

The law is intended to prevent payment-reform metrics or federal quality-of-care standards in the Affordable Care Act from giving rise to medical malpractice claims. Some examples include provisions for measuring hospital readmission rates and shared savings. These are quality control standards that apply to services and payment, and the new law clearly separates shortcomings of this kind from provider negligence that causes harm to a patient.

It is important for residents to understand that this new law does not restrict the rights of medical malpractice victims in Georgia to pursue a claim for compensation. The usual rules still apply to medical malpractice claims: a physician must have owed a duty of care to a patient, breached that duty and thereby harmed the patient.

One may ask, if it weren't for a provider's negligence, would the injury or harm have happened anyway? If so, a valid claim is unlikely; but if not (that is, if the victim would not have suffered injury without the provider's negligence), the victim may be able to hold that negligent provider liable through a medical malpractice claim.

Georgia patients who have suffered harm and want to know whether they may be able to pursue a provider for negligence should not misunderstand the new State Physician Shield Act, which does not shield providers from legitimate claims.

Source: MedPage Today, "Ga. Law: Federal Metrics No Basis for Medical Liability," David Pittman, May 7, 2013

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