The West Virginia Senate is considering legislation, tabled by the Judiciary Committee as part of a tort reform bill, to ban claims by third parties against medical malpractice insurers for delays or settlement refusals arising from alleged “bad faith.”
According to a report in the Charleston Gazette, there was heated debate in the Senate when the proposal was discussed. Proponents argued that West Virginia’s law that allows patients to file legal actions directly against a medical practitioner’s insurance company has discouraged companies from offering malpractice coverage in the State.
egislators opposed to eliminating the “bad faith” provision pointed out that it was one of the few ways of assuring that claims are resolved honestly, promptly and fairly, and is not a burden on the insurance industry, but a right which protects consumers from excessive delays.
While Governor Bob Wise’s administration would prefer keeping the provision, but raising the standard of proof required for a plaintiff to prevail, the lower house has reportedly insisted that the provision must be included in any tort reform legislation, or it will not pass the bill.
The tort reform act being considered would also provide for speedier trials, the expansion of juries hearing medical malpractice cases from 6 to 12 persons, expanded medical malpractice coverage available from the State Board of Risk and Insurance to all doctors who cannot obtain private coverage, and the expansion of the Agency’s advisory board from three to eleven members.
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