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January 22. 2014 9:30PM

Medical malpractice early offer program changes eyed

CONCORD — The House wants to make changes to a new law intended to allow victims of medical malpractice and health-care providers to settle claims without going through the court system.

The early offer program allows someone who claims to have been injured by a medical provider to send the claim and medical documentation to the provider, who would send it to his or her insurer to make a settlement offer within 90 days.

A patient who rejects the offer and sues would be responsible for some of the provider’s legal costs if the court case results in an award of less than 125 percent of the settlement offer.

Under House Bill 582, the penalty would be eliminated. Also patients would have more time to decide if they want to accept the settlement offer.

The bill would also allow the patients to recover lost earnings as well as other economic losses which were not permitted under the law approved in 2012.

According Rep. Gary Hopper, R-Weare, the bill provides greater fairness to the victim who suffered the medical injury. But opponents say the early offer program began Jan. 1, 2013, and lawmakers ought to wait to see how it works before making changes.

They said changes to the law may be necessary, but lawmakers should make those decisions based on experience, not speculation.

To date no case has been processed through the program and the rules have not been promulgated.

The bill now goes to the Senate.


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