In a published study last year, researchers found that the number of paid medical malpractice claims involving outpatient medical care in 2009 were more than the number of paid medical malpractice claims for hospital-based incidents in 2009. The study looked at paid medical malpractice claims between 2005 and 2009. During that period, there was a slight decline in overall paid medical malpractice claims, but a larger decline for hospital medical malpractice claims.
Another finding of the study was that the paid hospital medical malpractice claims were for more money than the paid outpatient medical malpractice claims, even though nearly two-thirds of the outpatient claims were for major injuries or death (paid outpatient medical malpractice claims in 2009 represented almost $1.3 billion in medical malpractice claims payments).
One possible explanation for the study findings is that more technically complicated medical procedures that were once done in the hospital setting are now being done in doctors’ offices or ambulatory surgery centers. Other explanations include the overwhelming amount of medical information regarding patients in the hospital setting and that doctors in hospitals are over-tired and over-worked, spending less time with each hospital patient.
A previous report in 1999 that estimated that 98,000 patients die annually in hospitals due to medical mistakes helped focus medical reforms to reduce medical errors in the inpatient hospital setting. The recent study may help re-focus efforts to reduce medical malpractice events in the outpatient setting.
What the recent study did not address is the effect of so-called medical malpractice tort reforms (such as limits on the amount of monetary damages that victims of medical malpractice can recover, no matter the extent or duration of their injuries, including death) on medical malpractice claims.
For example, California’s cap (limit) on noneconomic damages is $250,000. With such a low limit on noneconomic damages in California (and in other states), many medical malpractice attorneys are now declining legitimate medical malpractice cases that they would have taken in the past because the expense and time devoted to litigating the smaller medical malpractice claims, no matter how egregious the medical negligence committed by the careless medical providers, cannot justify filing the smaller medical malpractice cases.
Thus, researching paid medical malpractice claims as an indicator of medical malpractice trends may be of limited value because the incidence of the smaller, unfiled medical malpractice claims are not taken into account because they are not part of the available medical malpractice claims statistics.
Whether you were injured as a result of medical malpractice in a hospital or as an outpatient, you need the advice of a medical malpractice attorney if you have become the victim of possible medical malpractice.
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