Today’s blog post is our 1,700th consecutive daily blog posting to our website, www.medicalmalpracticelawyers.com. While we continue to report on medical malpractice verdicts throughout the United States in favor of injured victims of medical malpractice, according to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, less than one-quarter of medical malpractice cases that went to trial in the United States in 2005 resulted in a verdict in favor of the plaintiff.
According to the American Medical Association, in 2008, 65% of medical malpractice claims in the United States were dropped, dismissed, or withdrawn; 25.7% were settled; 4.5% were decided as a result of alternative dispute resolution methods; and, 5% were resolved by trial, in which 90% resulted in a defense verdict.
The National Center for State Courts Court Statistics Project reported in April 2011 that trial data from the 2005 Civil Justice Survey of State Courts found that medical malpractice lawsuits are uncommon and declining in number, that juries decide against medical malpractice plaintiffs more than three-quarters of the time, and that damage awards in medical malpractice cases are generally proportionate to the severity of the injury. Furthermore, medical malpractice cases represented well under 2% of all incoming civil cases, and less than 8% of incoming tort cases (including automobile tort cases) – only in New York and New Jersey did the number of medical malpractice filings exceed 1,000.
In 2005, there were an estimated 2,449 medical malpractice trials in state courts, as compared with more than 12,000 other personal injury trials. The median award for successful medical malpractice plaintiffs was $400,000, as compared with $19,840 for other successful personal injury plaintiffs. The most serious injuries, such as paralysis and cancer, received the largest awards. In medical malpractice cases, death tended to be compensated somewhat less highly than some other serious injuries such as paralysis, in part because these injuries often require costly lifelong care. Less serious injuries, such as fractures and dental injuries, received smaller awards. The median damage award for death in medical malpractice cases was nearly 50% smaller than the median award in other wrongful death cases. The most common injury in medical malpractice cases was death, accounting for 22% of medical malpractice trials, as opposed to 3% of other personal injury trials.
With regard to the total number of incoming medical malpractice cases over a ten-year period in seven U.S. states with available data, New York is the only state in which medical malpractice filings remained nearly level over this period – in the remaining six states, filings fell by between 22 and 45 percent (in comparison, total tort filings in the 13 states with available data fell by 25% over the same period, while contract filings increased by 63%).
The National Center for State Courts concluded: “The data on medical malpractice case filings and trials in state courts reveal little evidence of a “litigation crisis.” Courts do not appear to be overwhelmed by a flood of medical malpractice lawsuits. As data cited earlier from the Institute of Medicine show, very few injured patients ever file suit and even fewer take their cases to trial. Only a small minority of medical malpractice plaintiffs win at trial. Although median damage awards to successful plaintiffs are higher in medical malpractice cases than in other personal injury cases, the injuries in medical malpractice cases tend to be more severe.”
Medical Malpractice “Tort Reform”
There are 31 U.S. states that have laws that place caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases, with six of these states having caps on both economic and noneconomic damages. Medical malpractice caps have been overturned as unconstitutional in 12 states, and upheld in 16 states. Eighteen U.S. states have enacted medical malpractice tort reforms in the past 15 years.
Physicians and other medical providers who would otherwise be held fully accountable for the most serious, avoidable injuries they cause their patients to suffer due to their medical negligence are ecstatic to be granted special financial protection at the expense of the most seriously harmed victims of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice tort reform acts as a disincentive to health care providers to provide appropriate, careful medical care.
Medical malpractice tort reform utterly fails to address and have an impact on the most important issue facing anyone who receives medical attention in the United States: improving medical care and avoiding medical mistakes that harm patients and their families. State legislators who insist on protecting medical providers by imposing one-sided laws limiting liability and unfairly capping recoveries for catastrophic losses suffered by medical malpractice victims have done nothing to provide incentives for health care providers to improve their care and limit their mistakes – the financial incentive to avoid medical mistakes and careless care is removed when they are protected from being held fully responsible for the harms they cause.
We look forward to continuing our effort to inform and educate our readers concerning medical malpractice issues and other related matters as we continue to post our daily blog. We remain hopeful that innocent victims of medical malpractice in the United States will be able to obtain justice and fairness in the future – it is un-American to enact laws that protect the privileged class of medical providers and that are intended to harm vulnerable victims of medical malpractice who are left without recourse when they are harmed by medical negligence.
If you or a loved one were injured as a result of medical malpractice in the United States, you should promptly find a local medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who my investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.