Arguments to Support Enactment of Special Liability Protection
for Emergency Care Providers
SUPPORT SENATE BILL 33/HOUSE BILL 542
- Emergency medicine is an essential public service that involves unique challenges and circumstances that should be recognized in state medical liability statutes. Emergency Medicine provides the safety net to provide 24/7 medical care for everyone.
- Emergency physicians must make immediate, lifesaving decisions regarding diagnosis and treatment without the benefit of a prior relationship to the patient and often without any knowledge of the patient’s medical history.
- Emergency physicians are mandated by federal law called EMTALA to treat anyone who comes to an emergency department, regardless of the nature, severity, or complexity of their condition. The standard is that they must treat "a condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity(including severe pain) such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in placing the individual's health or the health of an unborn child in serious jeopardy, serious impairment to bodily functions, or serious dysfunction of bodily organs".
- Emergency physicians treat everyone regardless of their ability to pay and provide a large and ever growing amount of uncompensated and undercompensated care. Emergency providers face the real possibility that they will not be compensated for the care they provide, yet be liable for any mistakes made and subject to millions of dollars of damages.
- Everyone will need emergency care at some point, whether they are young or old, rich or poor, insured or uninsured. It is imperative that the emergency care system remains viable and capable of providing high quality lifesaving care to the entire population. The safety net provided by Emergency Care needs special protection.
- The high-risk nature of emergency medicine results in high liability insurance rates. These costs coupled with lost revenue from uncompensated care seriously threaten the future viability of the emergency care system.
- Other specialists providing essential on-call services to emergency patients are often in critical short supply, due largely to increased liability exposure, higher liability premiums and reduced reimbursements for providing emergency care. State liability laws should not act to further discourage these specialists from agreeing to provide vital on-call services to emergency patients.
- Several other states, including Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia have recognized the unique needs and circumstances of emergency care and have enacted special liability protections for emergency care providers, including requiring a higher standard of negligence that must be proven in emergency care cases.
Find your Legislator
For additional information, please contact:
Colleen Kochanek, Executive Director
North Carolina College of Emergency Physicians