Senate Bill 20: Leveling the Legal Liability Playing Field in Kentucky
Enhancing patient care & reducing frivolous lawsuits
What is Senate Bill 20?
Senate Bill 20 includes several proven, commonsense reforms to improve Kentucky’s broken legal liability system. This legislation will ensure that plaintiffs and defendants stand on a level playing field in medical malpractice claims.
Why Does Kentucky Need Senate Bill 20?
Kentucky’s current liability climate — ranked one of the worst in the nation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — makes our health care providers a target for aggressive personal injury lawyers and invites frivolous medical malpractice suits. It is time to help providers put their focus where it belongs: on their patients, not lawsuits.
What Happens Without Senate Bill 20?
Kentucky will continue to be an outlier in the region and its legal liability climate will remain a significant barrier to attracting and retaining the best health care providers.
WHAT REFORMS DOES SENATE BILL 20 INCLUDE and HOW WILL THEY BENEFIT KENTUCKY?
Affidavit of Merit: Requires the plaintiff in a malpractice suit to secure an affidavit of merit from a medical professional, stating the medical standard of care was breached, before a case moves forward. Requiring an affidavit of merit will help reduce frivolous claims that drive up insurance costs and waste limited provider resources on lawsuits instead of patient care.
Peer Review Protection: Confidential peer review allows health care professionals to openly and honestly discuss, evaluate and learn from their own performance without fear that the candid opinions shared by their peers will be used against them in a malpractice lawsuit. Confidential peer review will improve the future of patient care and is already provided in all but two states nationwide.
Medical Record Fees: Current law regarding medical record fees is outdated and places a significant burden on medical providers. In 2013, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled that third parties, such as attorneys, insurance companies and copy companies, are entitled to the patient’s free copy. However, these entities all benefit financially from the patient’s medical record without any legal requirement to protect patient privacy. SB 20 will finally modernize this process and remove this burden from providers.
Statements of Sympathy: Prohibits aggressive personal injury lawyers from using an apology or other similar statement to a patient or family against a physician in medical malpractice cases. Kentucky health care providers face a very unfortunate catch-22 that often prohibits them from showing compassion for fear of encouraging a lawsuit. Regardless of the facts or situation, an expression of sorrow to a patient or their family can put a physician in legal jeopardy. Yet, if they say nothing of the kind, attorneys paint them as callous and indifferent.
Caps on Attorney Contingency Fees: places a reasonable schedule on the amount of money personal injury lawyers are allowed to collect from their clients in the form of contingency fees, which are usually between 33-50% of an award or settlement. Establishing a graduated contingency fee schedule ensures that when plaintiffs are awarded damages, the injured party, not the personal injury lawyer, receives the majority of the money.
SB 20 provides a commonsense remedy to ensure justice for plaintiffs without unfairly burdening Kentucky’s health care providers.