Damage cap credited for drop in Texas malpractice premiums

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline)-Thanks to a tort reform law in Texas, physicians in the Lone Star State will have reduced liability premiums, officials said this week.

The board of the Texas Medical Liability Trust recently approved an average rate reduction of 4.7 percent for TMLT-insured physicians beginning next year. Renewing policyholders will also receive a 22.5 percent dividend.

"This is the fourth consecutive year the Trust has announced a policyholder dividend," said Fields. "The 22.5 percent dividend is the largest percentage dividend in the Trust’s history," said Bob Fields, president and CEO of the Texas Medical Liability Trust.

Fields said since the first dividend was declared in 2005, renewing TMLT policyholders will have received dividend credits off renewal premiums amounting to about $105 million.

TMLT-insured physicians will have saved $380 million in decreased premiums, once this latest round of rate cuts and dividends is implemented, a statement said.

The Texas Medical Liability Trust has reduced its malpractice insurance rates for physicians each year since 2003, when voters passed legislation that capped medical malpractice damage awards at $250,000.

"Effective tort reform has continued to reduce nonmeritorious litigation against physicians. As long as 2003 tort reform measures remain in place, TMLT believes the legal environment will remain stable," a statement said.

"TMLT’s current strong financial position makes these rate reductions and dividends possible; however, there is no guarantee that the business and legal climate will support future rate reductions or dividends."

The not-for-profit TMLT, the state’s largest medical liability insurance provider, has more than 14,500 clients.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.