Medical malpractice continues to be a hot issue for patients, doctors, and the legislature, which is probably why studies examining medical malpractice claims are appearing every day!
A new study by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School examined 10,000 malpractice claims against U.S. doctors between 2002 and 2005 and found that of all claims; about half resulted in actual lawsuits, and of those that did proceed to trial, the majority of which were dismissed.
Among all medical malpractice claims in the study, 55.2% actually resulted in litigation, with ranges by specialties from 46.7 percent against anesthesiologists to 62.6 percent against obstetricians and gynecologists.
The study also found that most malpractice claims against doctors are dismissed, and if they do end up proceeding to trial, a verdict is usually resolved in the physician’s favor. Overall, the study found that courts dismissed about 54 percent of cases. The highest dismissal rates were found among internists at 61.5 percent and the lowest were found among pathologists at 36.5 percent.
Many times claims are resolved before a verdict is reached. The study concluded that 33.3 percent of litigation claims were resolved before a verdict, for internists, while 49.9 percent were resolved before a verdict among pathologists. Cases that actually reached a verdict (about 4.5 percent) were in favor of physicians around 80 percent of the time.
The study also investigated how long the litigation process was for litigated and non-litigated claims. The mean time to the end of a non-litigated claim was 11.6 months and for litigated claims, a little over 25 months until resolution. Lawsuits dismissed in court took more than 20 months and those resolved before a verdict took more than 28 months.
Interestingly, when cases did reach a verdict in favor of physicians, the cases lasted around 30 months on average, yet when verdicts were rendered in favor of patients; the cases lasted 44 months.
Both doctors and patients are likely concerned about the length of time it takes to resolve medical malpractice claims and hopefully this study will serve as another reminder to physicians to prevent as many mistakes as possible and in their control.
Many times doctors fear that their reputation will be harmed by the medical malpractice claim. Yet it is patients that suffer the most harm because patients who have genuine claims leading to verdicts in their favor are looking at an average of 44 months before a verdict or else years before they are actually receiving a payout.
Many hospitals are trying to alleviate this stress on patients by implementing “early disclosure” programs where they proactively notify patients about errors and offer them compensation.
But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! I welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] . You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.