The Truth About Medical Malpractice
Most of us agree that qualified doctors fill an important place in our society. They take care of us when we’re sick, they may save our lives when we are at death’s door, and they help minor and major injuries heal so that we can resume our normal lives.
Because doctors are so essential to our modern society, they have been given a sort of hero status, and many patients who have been injured by a doctor’s negligence are reluctant to pursue litigation. This mindset is compounded by several myths and exaggerations, put forth by the medical profession itself, that lead patients to believe that medical malpractice suits can tear down the medical profession and should be avoided.
Fortunately for all of us, the medical profession is largely stable. Here are several important truths that combat the prevalent myths about medical malpractice suits:
Medical Malpractice Awards Do Not Bankrupt Doctors
It is a commonly-expressed fear among medical professionals that a single medical malpractice suit could wipe out their personal savings. The truth is that most medical malpractice suits are resolved for an amount that is lower than the policy limits on the doctor’s malpractice insurance. Even the cases that end up going to a jury trial rarely result in awards greater than the policy limits.
Medical Malpractice Litigation Does Not Unduly Increase the Cost of Malpractice Insurance
News reporters are after an exciting story, and unusually high jury verdicts in medical malpractice claims are tantalizing fodder. The truth is that these huge verdicts are rare enough to attract attention as a unique news story precisely because they are not the norm. Many cases are settled out of court and, even when an above-average verdict is handed down, many of them are reduced by the courts. There has been little to no actual evidence to support the claim that doctors cannot afford malpractice insurance because of malpractice litigation.
Doctors Don’t Flock to States with Damage Caps
Some people fear that, if their state doesn’t cap recovery amounts for medical malpractice claims, then doctors will become scarce in their state. The truth is that states with damage caps have, on average, merely three to seven percent more doctors per capita than states without damage caps, and those states without damage caps have seen no significant shortage in doctor availability.
Medical Malpractice Results are Not Decided by Chance
Again, the most interesting news stories involve either the mildly injured patient who received millions or the severely injured patient who received nothing. While these results might seem to suggest that claims are decided by a roll of the dice, that is not true. Across the board, the severity of injury does have a strong effect on the ultimate amount of the award. Claimants with permanent injuries receive, on average, a greater award than those with temporary injuries.
Tort Reform Won’t Significantly Lower Health Spending
Proponents of tort reform measures such as damage caps argue that lowering doctors’ liability risks will translate into doctors spending less not only on liability insurance but on the superfluous tests they now feel they have to order in an excess of caution. Studies have shown that capping medical malpractice liability has no significant effect on medical spending — leading to the conclusion that doctors are ordering the tests they think are needed, and they won’t change that practice even if their liability is reduced.
The medical malpractice system is not perfect. As with most systems, there are problems that deserve attention. But improving the system can come only when the discussion is based on truths, not premised on fear or myth.
The Florida law firm of Wagner, McLaughlin & Whittemore has the experience you need to guide you through your medical malpractice claim – and we have decades of experience not only settling but aggressively litigating medical malpractice cases as well . Email us today for a free consultation.