Whether you suffered an injury during a recent hospital stay, or your spouse endured an unnecessary surgery or a prescription drug overdose, you’re angry. But you’re also cautious. You’re somewhat dubious about medical malpractice lawsuits — you may have concerns about both their ethicality and their utility. To that end, let’s explore 3 counterintuitive truths about med mal cases, so that you can make a more informed decision about your next steps.
Truth #1: The vast majority of medical malpractice suits have merit.
Many people sadly buy into the stereotype that medmal cases are often “frivolous” claims brought by greedy or poor claimants — and that they punish innocent doctors.
Statistics just don’t back up this stereotype.
For instance, the Harvard School of Public Health recently conducted an exhaustive analysis of 1,400 medical negligence claims and found that 97% of them had merit. In fact 80% of the cases studied involved major injury or death. The Harvard researchers said “portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown.”
Likewise, the suits do a good job of zeroing in on the truly dangerous doctors. An analysis conducted from 1991 to 2005 found that fewer than 6% of doctors caused nearly 58% of all malpractice claims payments. Another study of 51 hospitals throughout New York found that the poor patients who lacked insurance were far less likely to sue than other patients.
Truth #2: The actual number of malpractice events likely dwarfs the number of medical malpractice lawsuits.
The Institution of Medicine estimates that 98,000 people, annually, die due to preventable medical errors. Hundreds or thousands of other patients suffer serious, nonfatal, preventable injuries. The number of medical malpractice cases filed is miniscule by comparison, constituting just 3% of all civil tort cases brought annually. In other words, most victims of malpractice do nothing, legally speaking.
Truth #3: Getting fair settlements in medmal cases is quite hard, and “outrageous” jury verdicts are few and far between.
The tort reform lobby convinced many Americans that so-called “runaway juries” enjoy awarding outrageously high settlement amounts. But here’s the reality. Per the National Association Insurance Commissioners, payouts for medical negligence claims dropped by 50% between 2003 and 2008. Furthermore, fewer than 0.5% of cases led to verdicts or settlements that exceeded $1 million. The median award for a permanent injury – and remember, this is the total compensation package for someone permanently disabled for life due to someone else’s negligence or carelessness – was just $315,000 in 2005.
These counterintuitive truths just scratch the surface. The reality is many myths make life needlessly challenging for injury victims and their families. Fortunately, the team at Regan Zambri & Long can provide thorough, strategic assistance. Call us now at (202) 759-6699 for a free evaluation of your D.C. medical malpractice case.