New Hampshire Adopts “Early Offer” Reform

By: Scott Hobson

New Hampshire recently enacted legislation which gives plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases the choice to opt out of filing a lawsuit in favor of accepting an early settlement. If the plaintiff does not feel the settlement is fair, they may reject it and still file a lawsuit.

Both houses of the legislature passed the legislation, but it was vetoed by Governor Lynch. On June 27th, the legislature overrode the veto, enacting the legislation into law. New Hampshire is the first state in the Nation with such a law.

This “exit ramp” approach to litigation serves a dual purpose – dramatically shortening compensation times while reducing medical malpractice litigation costs. Dr. Cynthia Cooper, President of the New Hampshire Medical Society noted that, “Under our current legal system, the aggregate administration and litigation costs for medical injury claims can be higher than the amount some plaintiffs receive for their injuries.”

Much of the savings are realized by eliminating the lawyers’ fees – which typically consume at least 33% of the final award. The trial lawyers must now come to terms with an uncomfortable truth – given the option, many plaintiffs would prefer to skip the courtroom altogether.

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