Earlier this month, the Office of Insurance Commissioner for Washington State issued its 2011 Medical Malpractice Statistical Summary for medical malpractice lawsuits that were resolved in Washington State between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2011, as reported by attorneys. The attorneys were required to report settlements of medical malpractice lawsuits to the Washington State Insurance Commissioner pursuant to medical malpractice tort reform legislation passed by the Washington State Legislature in 2006.
Because the legislation did not provide penalties for failure by the medical malpractice attorneys to report the final resolution of medical malpractice lawsuits to the Insurance Commissioner, the compliance rate for such reporting has been low (the Insurance Commissioner proposed adding an enforcement mechanism to the law in 2010 but that effort was unsuccessful). Hence, the practical use of the statistical summary is very limited.
In fact, the estimated compliance rate dropped each year from 2008 to 2011 (from 76.3% in 2008, to 50.4% in 2009, to 25.8% in 2010, to the new low of 18.5% for 2011). The number of settlements reported by medical malpractice attorneys also decreased between 2008 and 2011: from 158 in 2008, to 129 in 2009, to 63 in 2010, and to 65 in 2011.
However, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits resolved increased between 2008 and 2011: 207 in 2008, 256 in 2009, 244 in 2010, and 351 in 2011.
The average indemnity payment (“total indemnity payment” is defined as total compensation paid by all defendants to the claimant stemming from a lawsuit, which may come from several defendants if a lawsuit named more than one party) was $611,834 in 2008, $649,173 in 2009, $1,179,333 in 2010, and $504,350 in 2011.
The average fee paid to an attorney was $213,564 in 2008, $249,000 in 2009, $434,516 in 2010, and $171,647 in 2011.
The average legal expenses per lawsuit was $208,946 in 2008, $256,724 in 2009, $439,868 in 2010, and $201,530 in 2011.
The total legal expenses were $33,013,414 for 2008, $33,117,457 for 2009, $27,711,698 for 2010, and $13,099,449 for 2011.
The average attorney fee divided by the average indemnity payment was 34.9% in 2008, 38.4% in 2009, 36.8% in 2010, and 34.0% in 2011.
Unless and until all medical malpractice settlement payments are reported to the Washington State Insurance Commissioner and are then reported by the Insurance Commissioner to the public, the statistical information is of little use in analyzing the various data regarding medical malpractice payments reported to the Insurance Commissioner in Washington State. Without knowing more specific information about each medical malpractice claim settled (such as the amount paid for economic damages, the amount paid for noneconomic damages, etc.), trends in medical malpractice claims such as the type of claims made, the age and other characteristics of the claimants, the medical specialties of the medical malpractice defendants, and the bases for the medical malpractice payments made cannot be evaluated.
If you may be the unfortunate victim of medical malpractice in Washington State or in another state in the United States, you may benefit from consulting with a local medical malpractice lawyer who may be able to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you.
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