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

Journal of Empirical Legal Studies (Impact Factor: 1.4). 12/2009; 6(4):637 - 686. DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-1461.2009.01156.x


We 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. We employ survey data from 965 plaintiffs' attorneys who reported likelihoods of accepting hypothetical meritorious cases described by scenarios. We 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. We conclude that caps and AFLs make it harder to retain counsel in various circumstances, and we present policy simulations elucidating how several factors combine to determine these effects.

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