Study Finds Fewer Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Higher Payouts
Recent studies have shown that the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in the United States has dropped significantly over the last twenty years while the average claim has risen. Higher claims have been cited by proponents of tort reform, but efforts to reform tort law may make it more difficult for those who have legitimate claims against their healthcare providers to find attorneys willing to take on their claims. When considering that the actual number of cases filed has dropped so significantly, however, it is becoming clear that placing caps on damages and implementing other forms of tort reform may actually harm those who have legitimate claims far more than it will deter those with frivolous ones.
Drop in Claims Not Necessarily Linked to Better Medical Treatment
From 1992-2014, it has been revealed that the number of medical malpractice lawsuits being filed has dropped by over 52%. Meanwhile, the average judgement or settlement has increased during that period from $287,000 to over $353,000. At first glance, these statistics could be used to make the case that healthcare providers and doctors are making fewer errors and responsible for fewer injuries, but the reality is that tort reform across the nation has forced many attorneys to turn away cases that would not be worth their time or resources.
In order to be able to represent all individuals regardless of financial health, many lawyers work on a contingency basis, but this means that they assume all of the costs needed to investigate, build and present their cases. As more states implement caps on judgements, it makes it more difficult for attorneys to recoup their costs and they need to be much more selective concerning which cases they take on.
For many, this means screening potential clients and only selecting cases that have a high probability of success and turning away clients whose claims may be perceived as frivolous.
Data Suggests that Negligent Doctors are Repeat Offenders
Another interesting discovery in the studies showed that 8% of all medical malpractice claims were paid by the top 1% of doctors who had lawsuits filed against them. What this means is that the physicians considered negligent in numerous cases were more likely to be responsible for an unusual number of malpractice claims compared to their peers.
In some cases, this could be because the doctors are specialists in extremely high-risk fields and the risks make it more likely that their patients will suffer injuries and complications. In other instances, it could be a sign that the physicians in question are not fit for their duties and their employers could be responsible for not taking appropriate measures to vet and review their performance before allowing them to continue performing procedures.