Are Medical Malpractice Victims Really Cashing In? The Answer Will Surprise You.Cases
Only 1 in 5 medical malpractice claims against doctors leads to a settlement or other payment, according to a new study, “Malpractice Risk According to Physician Specialty”, published on August 18th by the New England Journal of Medicine. The author of the study, Amitabh Chandra of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, expressed surprise that “so many claims did not result in payment”.
The study took a detailed snapshot of U.S. medical malpractice claims, awards and frequency by specialty and was based on data provided by a physician-owned liability insurer between 1991 and 2005. Specialists in neurosurgery and cardio-thoracic surgeons had the highest incidence of malpractice claims, while psychiatrists and primary care physicians had the lowest percentage of malpractice claims. Data showed that just 1.6% of physicians in any given year faced a claim that resulted in payment.
The author of the study concluded that our malpractice system is inefficient since only roughly 1 out of 5 claims is paid, and he concludes that the unpaid claims are meritless. Au contraire, my naive friend. The fact that a claim is unpaid often has very little to do with the merit of the case. Today, juries are very cynical of malpractice cases and the common perception is that malpractice victims are looking to cash in a lottery ticket. It is common that even the strongest and most obvious cases of malpractice are lost at trial, often due to the biases of the jury against the malpractice victim.
The author’s conclusion that the unpaid malpractice claims are meritless is a faulty premise to say the least. If the author spent a single day in a courtroom, he might get a better appreciation of the reality of the U.S. malpractice system. Just a thought.
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