Figures provided by the Madison County Circuit Clerk's office.

ISMIE Mutual Insurance will maintain its current medical liability base rates for Illinois doctors due to a continued decrease in liability claims offset by increasing severity -- or amounts of payouts -- since the state legislature enacted caps on damages in 2005, the company announced this week.

"Illinois' medical liability market continues to stabilize thanks to the state's reform law, but we must remain cautiously alert," said ISMIE Chair Harold L. Jensen, M.D.

"Until the Illinois Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the reforms, severity will continue to be an issue for Illinois doctors and their patients' access to care."

The high court is expected to rule soon on the reform law's constitutionality, after Cook County Circuit Court Diane Joan Larsen' ruled in 2007 that the caps law violates victims' rights.

The law caps non-economic damages for physicians at $500,000 and hospitals at $1 million in medical malpractice cases.

Larsen ruled that the law violates the state Constitution's "separation of powers" clause.

She ruled that lawmakers interfered with the right of juries to determine fair damages.

Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League, said after Larsen's ruling that the decision "strikes down the will of the Illinois people and the efforts of the duly elected and bi-partisan state legislature."

The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association has said Larsen's ruling was "an important victory for the rule of law and constitutional government over the rule of special interests."

The extension of ISMIE's current base rates affects annual policies renewing on or after Oct. 1, 2009.

In addition to maintaining rates, ISMIE will continue to distribute dividends to eligible policyholders for the third year in a row, according to a ISMIE press release. The dividends, which total more than $20.7 million, appear as a credit on renewal notices for those continuously insured with ISMIE since the 2005-2006, 2006-2007 and/or 2007-2008 policy years.

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