New Hampshire Early Offer Program Looks to Reduce Medical Malpractice Costs

On March 15, the New Hampshire Senate unveiled Senate Bill 406, an early offer program for the state’s medical liability lawsuits. If enacted, the bill promises to have a deflating effect on the cost of medical malpractice insurance for doctors and the overall cost of medical malpractice litigation in the state. The early offers program would also greatly decrease the amount of time from claim to resolution..

The way the proposed early offer legislation would work is that after being informed of a claim, the accused healthcare worker would have 90 days to offer a settlement. The settlement would be calculated based on medical costs and lost wages that were accrued due to the unintended consequence. It would also limit non-economic, pain-and-suffering damages to $1,700 for minor harm and $117,500 for grave harm in these medical malpractice claims. Participation in this program would be voluntary for patients.

On its surface, the voluntary participation aspect of the early offer program would be its Achilles heel. After all, if the harmed patient has access to a competent lawyer, there is little chance they would participate in a system that caps their potential compensation from the get-go. The bill’s author realized this when authoring the legislation.

According to Jeb Bradley, the bill’s main sponsor, injured patients would be compensated in a more timely fashion (resolving a malpractice claim under the current system takes up to four years to complete), and SB 406 also requires that cases that opt out of the early offer model would be held to a higher, “clear and convincing evidence” standard when litigating their claim in the court system.

The higher standard for proving medical negligence in the New Hampshire court system has riled the trial attorneys in the state. The trial lawyers lobby has been backing an amendment that would strip the requirement of a higher burden of proof for harmed patients who pursue legal action after participating in the early offer process.

SB 406 has the support of every healthcare workers’ association in the state, and if the bill should pass, New Hampshire would be the first state to institute an early offer program.