Another interesting article. For starters, the author(s) note that "claims and rates [of medical malpractice suits] are declining[.]" To me, that completely contradicts the prior article from Medscape that I previously wrote about. They then go on to back this up with data, showing that a drop in claims "continues a 6 year trend." The author(s) then note that "65% of malpractice claims are dropped, dismissed, or withdrawn; 24% of cases are settled; and only 7% result in a verdict. Of the cases that reach a verdict, the defendant (doctor, hospital, nurse, PA) is favored 88% of the time."
Well, now I am just plain old confused. Their prior article claims that there is an explosion of litigation in medical malpractice and we need more caps on damages and more tort reform to prevent this. Now, this article says, well, there is not much litigation, the trend is less, and heck, when we do get sued, we usually win. See, confused.
The article examines why there is less litigation, and nails it on the head. "It's expensive for plaintiff attorneys; they have to invest a lot and may not be able to make a profit." Yes, the institution of caps, the expense to get medical records and bills for our clients and the expense of the suit in general has essentially forced plaintiffs lawyers out of these types of cases completely, or made it so that only the gravely injured have any sort of shot at being compensated for the malpractice. In fact, the author specifically notes this: "Supporters of tort reform have been very successful over the past couple of years.. and now it's very difficult to being a claim to trial." Yes! Exactly. You tort reformers have managed to make it nearly impossible for injured people to receive compensation. Good work!
The author is quick to point out that "we still win 82% of all claims, so most of the claims the plaintiff's bar is filing are fruitless." Ok, first, I have no idea how that person came up with that number, because that does not make any sense given the numbers above that are in the article prior to this comment. Second, is settling a case, in which the defendant pays money, winning? Third, how are these claims "fruitless?" Just because you win an arbitrary percentage of cases, the claims are automatically fruitless? I think this ignores the fact that lawyers file claims that are not fruitless or frivolous, but that cases go to trial, and at trial the decision of whether the doctor was negligent or not goes to the jury; a jury comprised of mainly lay people who bring their own biases and prejudices into the case, even though they are instructed not to. So, it could be that they do not find the doctor negligent (because they don't want to; believe me, I have seen this happen) despite the overwhelming evidence that the doctor committed malpractice.
At any rate, there are other reasons claims are going down. The article notes that there is more emphasis on risk management and having doctors attend seminars. Yes, it is a very good idea to focus on how to prevent malpractice. Finally, someone showing that people actually care about the patients. Hospitals are working on the evolution of electronic records because in their current form it is easy to miss something given the volume of information provided in an electronic record.
The author discusses what else is working in the USA to "curb rising" malpractice claims. None really did anything because the main thing that helps curb suits is the arbitrary cap on damages. The author notes the next best thing is caps on what a lawyer can charge on a contingent basis for a medical malpractice claim. These would be helpful because "these combat the plaintiff's bar's parasitic form of venture capitalism." Wow! Yes, being paid to help an individual who was injured by malpractice is parasitic. Clearly, the right thing to do is deny to the injured person that malpractice occurred, deny compensation, and make it extremely difficult for that person to hire a lawyer and pursue a medical malpractice case. Geez, us plaintiff's lawyers truly are the bad guys.
I wonder when the author will write an article about the ever increasing costs of health care and the negative impact that is having on people's wallet and the car people receive.
For next time, "Patients Who Won't Sue Their Doctors -- Even When They Could."