In a recent review of data from a large national medical malpractice insurance company regarding closed neurosurgical medical malpractice claims made between January 1, 2004 and June 30, 2009, the researchers randomly selected and reviewed 90 cases. The plaintiffs in the 90 cases reviewed involved 57 males and 33 females. The average age was 45.4. The medical malpractice claims were from 20 states, with the largest number of claims from Illinois (17) and California (14).
The court had dismissed 31 of the cases. Of the remaining cases, 33 were settled before trial, during the trial, or after a mistrial was declared; the plaintiffs had abandoned their case in 4 of the cases; the plaintiff obtained summary judgment in 1 case; the defendants obtained summary judgment in 12 of the cases; and, of the 9 cases that went to trial, the plaintiffs won in 2 of the cases.
The average defense costs in the 90 medical malpractice claims reviewed was $86,882 (the average defense costs for those cases that went to trial was $182,734). The defendants won or were otherwise successful in 54 of the 90 cases. Of the 36 cases in which the plaintiffs were successful, 33 of the medical malpractice claims were settled. The average amount paid for 31 of the settled claims was $392,433 (the settlements ranged from a low of $7,500 to a high of $1,950,000). The average amount paid in the two successful plaintiffs’ cases that resulted in verdicts was $378,369.
In 86 of the 90 cases, there were additional defendants. The hospital was also a defendant in more than one-half of the cases, the neurosurgeon’s practice group was named as an additional defendant in 20% of the cases, and other physicians were named as additional defendants in 38% of the cases (most frequently internal medicine and critical care specialists).
The vast majority of the medical malpractice claims against neurosurgeons were by patients who were first treated by the neurosurgeon in the office setting, while 9% initially involved a hospital consultation and only 6% were first treated by the neurosurgeon in the emergency room. Of the 90 cases, 87 involved some type of neurosurgical procedure (23% involved cranial care and 70% involved spine care (54% of the spine care cases involved the lumbar spine, 37% involved the cervical spine, and 9% involved the thoracic spine)). Of the spine care cases, 55% involved some type of implant or instrumentation. The result of surgery in 54% of the cases was no new or worse neurological deficit (7% had no pain or neurological deficit).
Of the 87 cases involving some type of neurosurgical procedure, 62 involved neurological deficits prior to surgery (radiculopathy was most common). Sixty percent of the patients had additional surgery for complications or lack of improvement after the initial surgery and resulted in improvement in 24% of the patients (44% were unchanged and 32% were worse).
Improperly performed surgery was alleged in 70% of the cases. Failure to diagnose was alleged in 28% of the cases followed by lack of informed consent (16%), unnecessary surgery (9%), inappropriate postoperative care (9%), surgery performed on the wrong side or at the wrong level (7%), and retained foreign body such as a surgical sponge (2%).
The vast majority of the neurosurgical medical malpractice claims involved elective spine surgery for degenerative spine disease with placement of instrumentation. Of the 90 cases reviewed, 78 were felt to be the result of factors other than the defendants’ actions (35% involved subsequent treatment by another physician).
If you or a family member have been injured due to negligent medical care by a neurosurgeon or another medical care provider, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses. Call us toll free at 800-295-3959 or visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be able to investigate your claim for you and represent you, if appropriate.
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