After dropping precipitously from 2003 through 2012, medical malpractice settlements are on the rise again, according to data from Diederich Healthcare. In 2017, roughly $3.9 billion was paid out to victims of medical malpractice. That represents a 2.34 percent increase from 2016. If these trends continue, medical malpractice victims will receive more than $4 billion in 2018.
The Diederich Healthcare analysis also sheds light on medical malpractice trends in different regions of the country, the way payout amounts can vary wildly from state to state, and the types of medical malpractice most often resulting in payouts.
The following are some of the most interesting trends in medical malpractice to know about for 2018.
Medical Malpractice Payouts Are Rising.
The analysis shows a steep and steady drop in medical malpractice payouts between 2003 and 2012, followed by a sharp rebound in 2013 that continues into 2018. Several factors potentially contributed to the nearly decade-long fall, including tort reform and the political climate. Even when payouts were at the lowest point, however, patients were receiving billions of dollars due to the medical negligence of healthcare providers.
In 2003, roughly $4.8 billion was paid out in the United States in medical malpractice claims. That number fell to $3.6 billion in 2012. If current trends continue, malpractice settlements will exceed $4 billion again in 2018.
Medical Malpractice Payouts Vary Based on the State.
Malpractice payout amounts vary significantly from state to state. Settlements range from a high of $31 per person in New York to a low of less than $3 per person in Wisconsin.
Diederich Healthcare presents the state figures in a chart, which illuminates some interesting regional trends. For instance, the New England states are connected with higher per-capita medical payouts. New York, together with Rhode Island and New Jersey, have payouts significantly higher than the U.S. average.
This does not mean, however, that you cannot receive a substantial award if you live in a state where medical malpractice payouts tend to be lower. A dedicated and aggressive medical malpractice lawyer can build a strong case for you that results in full and fair compensation.
Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims
The study also breaks down total medical malpractice payouts by the recipients’ specific allegations. The following common claims resulted in the lion’s share of the payouts.
Diagnostic Errors Accounted for 34 Percent of Claims.
In these cases, the doctor or healthcare professional failed to diagnose or misdiagnosed a condition that a reasonable person should have been able to identify given the symptoms and evidence presented.
Surgery Errors Made up 22 Percent.
Doctors or healthcare professionals can make mistakes during surgery that lead to injuries or complications. Surgical errors can occur during the procedure itself or when a doctor fails to adhere to proper preoperative or postoperative protocol.
Inadequate or Substandard Treatment Accounted for 19 Percent.
This broad category includes any situation where the level of treatment a doctor or healthcare professional provides is not adequate compared to what one should expect from a reasonable person with the same training and in the same situation.
Obstetrics Made up 9 Percent of Claims.
Negligence when treating a pregnant woman can have consequences for the patient and the unborn child. Nearly 10 cents of every dollar paid out in medical malpractice claims involves obstetrics.
Malpractice Payouts Also Vary Based on the Severity of the Outcome for the Patient.
As the survey data indicates, the amount patients receive in medical malpractice payouts is closely tied to the severity of their negative outcomes. For example:
- Cases where a patient died accounted for 30 percent of malpractice payouts;
- Instances with a major permanent injury made up 20 percent;
- Cases with a significant permanent injury accounted for 18 percent;
- Victims who suffered paralysis or brain damage requiring lifelong care took home 12 percent of all settlements; and
- Those suffering minor permanent injuries received 8 percent.
Patients who suffered quadriplegia or brain damage took home an average payout of over $1 million. Patients suffering temporary injuries typically received lower payouts.
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