Several myths about medical negligence and malpractice suits have become popular recently, particularly as healthcare and insurance costs continued to be a major focus of economic and political debate. Below are three of the major myths tort reform proponents use to help push their agenda to limit the ability of injured patients to seek compensation for medical malpractice.
The Doctor Bias Myth
A number of citizens believe that when doctors enter the courtroom, they find themselves at a clear disadvantage. This myth holds that doctors are entering the courtroom to predetermined scowls and leaving broken, maligned professionals. However, this is anything but the truth.
A recent study out of the Archives of Internal Medicine found that contrary to belief many hold, doctors are not the victims of a medical malpractice bias their defense attorneys like to claim. In fact, this study, “Outcomes of Medical Malpractice Litigation Against US Physicians,” found that in cases which go to verdict, “most (79.6%) were judged in favor of the physician.”
They are not being dragged into court for frivolous claims either. According to a Harvard School of Public Health press release, “portraits of a malpractice system riddled with frivolous lawsuits are overblown.”
The Baseless Claims Myth
Medical malpractice law is rife with false claims and frivolous suits, right? Wrong. A 2006 New England Journal of Medicine study found that the “vast majority of expenditures go toward litigation over errors and payment of them.” The study admitted that while claims lacking evidence of error are not an uncommon occurrence, most do not result in compensation.
In addition, the study points out that when payments of claims which do not involve medical errors were made, they were significantly lower. According to the report, over $200,000 less was paid out to claims not involving medical error.
The Growing Claim Frequency Myth
Finally, the widespread belief propagated by tort reform advocates which states that these lawsuits are growing out of control and increasingly burdening the court system has also been proven false. In fact, medical malpractice filings are generally trending down in number, clearly refuting this baseless belief circulating among the defense.
In fact, a news release from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts found that in 2010, there was a 45.4 percent decline in medical malpractice case filings compared to the years 2000 to 2002 in that state. According to a nationwide survey from the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), between 1997 and 2008, medical negligence filings dropped eight percent.
The American Association for Justice reports that despite the hundreds of thousands of medical injuries that take place each year, only about one in eight of these patients actually file a claim. Even though claim numbers are dropping and jury verdict payouts and settlements have also declined, victims of medical malpractice are continually finding increased difficulty when seeking compensation for their injuries.
As long as these myths continue to exist unchallenged, we can expect to see this increasing injustice towards injured citizens continue.