The American Association for Justice (AAJ) recently published a report which examines some of the myths and facts about medical malpractice and patient safety.
Here’s a summary of the 5 medical malpractice myths:
Myth #1: There are too many “frivolous” malpractice lawsuits
The AAJ points out that there is an epidemic of medical negligence, not lawsuits. The Institute of Medicine reports that 98,000 people die in hospitals each year due to preventable medical errors. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer injuries due to medical errors. Considering the numbers, medical malpractice lawsuits are relatively uncommon. Researchers at Harvard found that only one out of eight people injured by medical negligence file a malpractice claim. The researchers also found that 97 percent of the medical malpractice claims they examined were meritorious, and 80 percent involved death or serious injury. “Portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown,” concluded the Harvard researchers.
Myth #2: Malpractice claims drive up health care costs
Costs associated with malpractice claims make up a tiny fraction of health care costs. In fact, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners found the total spending for defending medical claims and compensating victims accounted for just 0.3% of health care spending. Savings would be negligible if the amount of compensation a victim can recover were to be reduced.
Some also complain about the indirect costs of “defensive medicine,” saying that doctors are scared of being sued and therefore order billions of dollars worth of unnecessary tests. Major studies have found that the issue of defensive medicine is vastly exaggerated. Furthermore, the threat of liability improves mortality and health care outcomes. Injured patients should have the right to sue. Preventable medical errors add $29 billion in additional health care costs. Prevention of these errors should be the focus of savings strategies.
Myth #3: Doctors are fleeing
Studies show that the number of practicing physicians in the United States has been growing steadily for years. In 2007, there were 20,000 more physicians than the year before. In fact, the number of doctors is increasing at a faster rate than population growth in most states. Georgia is an exception. Ironically, Georgia has a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. This illustrates that capping damages and eroding patient rights does not attract physicians to a state.
Myth #4: Malpractice claims drive up doctors’ premiums
Research has found little correlation between malpractice payouts and malpractice premiums paid by doctors. Researchers at the national Bureau of Economic Research concluded that “increases in malpractice payments made on behalf of physicians do not seem to be the driving force behind increases in premiums.” The insurance companies make more money when they raise premiums. That’s the driving force.
Myth #5: Tort reform will lower insurance rates
Tort reforms do not lower physicians’ liability premiums. Insurers might pay out less money when damages are capped, but they do not pass on the savings to doctors by lowering premiums. In 2009, the average liability in states without caps on damages was lower than the average premium in states with caps!
If you or a loved one have been injured because of medical negligence, contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation.