Domestic medical malpractice litigation is at an interesting position in its history as the rate of paid medical malpractice claims has declined significantly (56% decrease from 1992 to 2014) while payouts have risen by 23% ($353,000 from 2009-2014 as opposed to $287,000 from 1992-1996). In other words, medical malpractice cases have been difficult for plaintiffs to win, but when they win, they win big. The Practitioner Data Bank, a federally maintained database that tracks medical malpractice payments found that of more than 280,000 paid claims, about 8% topped $1 million in 2009-2014, and nearly one-third involved a patient death.
Reasons for the numbers are unknown. Some theorize that less and less attorneys are interested in taking on medical malpractice cases if they are contingency based (most are) since the chances of winning are slim. A contingency agreement is one where the attorney takes the case without a fee and is only paid a percentage of the damage award if the case is successful.
Another line of thought is that greater tort reform has led to procedural hurdles that have made some plaintiffs drop their cases due to a large amount of the red tape it takes to get a case off the ground. For example, many states have instituted screening panels where plaintiffs must essentially try their case for a panel before even being allowed in a courtroom.
An optimistic point of view as to why claims of medical malpractice are down is that doctors are providing better care to patients. However, the decrease in claims happened so quickly (between 2003-2005) that it is hard to believe that the decline is directly related to improved patient care. One item of significant note was that the Practitioner Data Bank found that the severity of the decline in medical malpractice claims varied by specialty. Pediatricians have had the largest decline while cardiologists have had the smallest. The research also indicated that the amount of the payout increases was also impacted by specialty. Neurosurgery had the highest payout while dermatology had the lowest.
Medical malpractice can have devastating effects that last a lifetime. If you have been injured by a physician’s neglect, attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian will work to get you the full compensation to which you are entitled. Call 800-529-6162 today or contact them online for a free case evaluation. They handle cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
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