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Tort Reform Under Attack
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My name is Dr. Robert Hancock and I am currently your TCEP Treasurer and I represent TCEP on the Texas Alliance for Patient Access board of directors. TAPA is an organization that has one sole mission: Protect tort reform at all levels. The upcoming legislative session will likely be the largest attack on tort protection in many years. Additionally, the recent election resulted in a slight shift in the composition of the legislature, and the environment is now slightly less favorable for the protection of tort reform. Multiple areas that are likely to be attacked include:

  1. Adjusting the cap on non-economic damages to account for cost of living increases. The cap would then be indexed with the consumer price index (CPI) going forward. This would immediately raise the cap to around $350,000; and it would continue to increase annually based on the CPI.
  2. Continued efforts to undermine the willful and wanton standard in emergency cases. The argument has been made that a physician should not have this protection if they “substantially caused the emergency”. This means that you could lose the protection of the willful and wanton standard for things that you could never have predicted or avoided.
  3. Eliminating the increased protection against litigation for employees of government entities. This would include everyone employed by state universities in residency programs and medical schools.
  4. Legislation has also been proposed that would immediately raise the non-economic damages cap to $750,000.
  5. There will likely be attempts to eviscerate the “Texas Advanced Directives Act”. This is an absolute priority of “Texas Right to Life”.

There are likely other avenues that the Trial Lawyers Association is pursuing in an effort to weaken tort protection during this legislative session. Every physician that provides any type of emergency care should be frightened by all of these possible changes. Fortunately, TAPA and TCEP have both been extremely vigilant and are developing strategies to successfully defend our tort protections in Texas. However, we still need YOUR help! We need people to speak with your local legislatures and remind them of how important tort reform is to all of their constituents. The number of specialty physicians in Texas has greatly increased following the passage of tort reform. This directly impacts every person who seeks emergency care in the state, and it is important that legislators understand this concept. We need your donations to EMPACT and your continued membership in TCEP. All PAC donations go directly to pay our lobbyists and also fund donations to legislators. We can’t win this battle without the support of our members; so please get involved and help us win this fight!

Robert J. Hancock, DO, FACEP
Treasurer/Executive Board Member
Texas College of Emergency Physicians
Board of Directors
Texas Alliance for Patient Access

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