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It’s no secret that attorneys get lots of blame for medical costs spiraling out of control. But public perception often doesn’t align with fact. And a recent study of medical malpractice claims that was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that litigation of medical claims is not to blame for out-of-control health care costs.

The study examined data on medical malpractice cases from all 50 states between 2002 and 2005, analyzing a total of 10,056 malpractice claims that required some level of defense costs. Using this data, the researchers calculated the number of claims that resulted in litigation, and those claims were resolved depending on which medical specialty was involved. They also calculated how long it took to resolve various types of claims.

While litigation is often pointed to as a big fear or source of concern for physicians, the data shows that the frequency of litigated claims doesn’t match those fears: that frequency ranged from 46.7% for anesthesiologists to 62.6% for obstetricians and gynecologists.

In those situations where litigation did occur, 54.1 percent of the cases across all specialties were dismissed by the court. In addition, across all specialties, only 4.5 percent of claims were ultimately decided by a trial verdict, and of those, 79.6 percent were decided in favor of the defendant.

These numbers tell a very different story than public emotion and perception. The fact is that large-scale medical litigation remains relatively rare. Fears of litigation in the first place and the case actually going to the jury in the second place simply aren’t born out in the numbers.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Dr Mark Ray

    From a doctors point of view, the problem is that it is too easy to file a lawsuit against doctors, there is simply no recourse for filing a weak or false claim. I was sued once and wanted to file a countersuit because I felt that the suit had no merit, I was later dismissed from the case but still had to pay higher malpractice premiums because of the suit. That is why doctors practice "defensive medicine". When I asked my attorneys about filing a countersuit, I was told, "Those never get anywhere". Also, I was told up front before any information about the cases were obtained that 90% of cases settle??? Settle!!! What about the fact that I did nothing wrong but will now have to pay higher premiums because of the suit, not to mention the 1-2 years of worry and stress. If doctors were automatically allowed and encouraged to countersue then I guarrantee there would be less malpractice claims and that would help the problem ; otherwise , I'm all for defensive have to be.

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