Number of medical malpractice cases decline as awards rise

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Texans who believe they have been injured by a doctor’s mistake will undoubtedly understand that they have the right to file a lawsuit to seek compensation. However, keeping track of trends in legal filings related to medical malpractice is useful when determining what steps to take. One recent study has shown that the number of people who have filed medical malpractice lawsuits has declined substantially – by close to 56 percent from 1992 to 2014. Simultaneously, the amount that has been paid out in the cases that were filed has increased by 23 percent. This was an increase from $287,000 from 1992 to 1996 to $353,000 from 2009 to 2014.

It is believed that nationwide tort reform has factored in with the decline in filings. There are laws that will cap the damages that a person can receive when filing a lawsuit. It is believed that this makes it less worthwhile for attorneys to take a case that they do not believe they can win or win for a large amount, naturally lowering the prevalence of the filings and increasing the payouts because the cases that are filed are usually stronger.

From 2009 to 2014, there were more than 280,000 claims in which damages were paid. Approximately 8 percent paid more than $1 million. One-third of those were related to a patient dying. Pathologist payouts for medical mistakes increased by $139,000. General practitioners rose by $17,400. There was a reduction of 14 percent in cardiology payouts and 76 percent in pediatrics. A perception that doctors are simply getting better at providing care is an easy assumption to make, but the statistics say otherwise with the number of errors that happen including wrong-site surgery and other kinds of surgeon mistake make clear that there are still errors being made that warrant a legal filing.

This research might give pause to those who are considering a legal filing after a mistake, but when there is an error made during treatment of any kind, those who were damaged have the right to pursue compensation. Even with tort reform and the statistical drop in the number of filings, it must be remembered that the payouts have increased making it obvious that there are still actionable errors made by medical professionals. Before jumping to conclusions and ignoring a justified case, those who believe that they or a loved one were harmed by a medical mistake should make sure to speak to an attorney who has experience in medical malpractice to determine how best to proceed.

Source: CBS News, “Fewer medical malpractice lawsuits succeed, but payouts are up,” Dennis Thompson, March 28, 2017