Medical Malpractice - Quick Facts and Stats

A woman recently died at a Brooklyn New York hospital while awaiting treatment. Surveillance footage shows the woman dying on the floor of the emergency-room while nearby personnel ignored her situation. Shockingly, an hour passed before anyone noticed and offered help. By that time it was too late. Several hospital staff members were fired because of their neglect and abuse.

We depend most on doctors and other healthcare professionals. We pay them for their services, and in return we assume that we will receive expert treatment. While we all know that people sometimes make mistakes, a doctor’s error has far more serious repercussions than most. When we go to a hospital and receive medical treatment, the last thing we want to think about is what if the doctor makes a mistake. Still, medical errors are common and it is important to understand the issues involved in medical malpractice cases. The following are some basic facts and statistics regarding medical malpractice claims and trials.

Tort cases make up almost two thirds of all civil trials in the United States. A tort occurs when one incurs damages or loss from the negligent or intentional acts of another person. Medical malpractice is one example of a tort. It is estimated that nearly 98,000 Americans die yearly due to hospital errors. The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) lists medical malpractice as the third leading cause of death in the United States. JAMA estimates that there are nearly 225,000 deaths each year due to medical negligence. JAMA breaks down the number of deaths by the type of medical malpractice as follows: 12,000 from unnecessary surgery; 7,000 from medication errors; 20,000 from other hospital errors; 80,000 from infections as hospitals; and 106,000 from non-error adverse effects from medication.

Despite the high number of medical errors and associated deaths, there are on average only 85,000 malpractice suits filed yearly. Despite what insurance companies tell us about how medical malpractice cases have destroyed the healthcare industry and have increase insurance rates, the number of malpractice cases has declined and the number of jury verdicts in the plaintiff’s favor has also decreased. Insurance companies argue that the average jury award for medical malpractice victims has increased to nearly $225,000. They list this as a cause for the increasing healthcare costs and insurance rates. However this is deceptive. Due to national tort reform, the burden on a plaintiff is higher, thus decreasing the chances of success. The result is only obvious cases of medical malpractice get litigated. This fact is best illustrated by statistics that show 90% of medical malpractice claims involve the victim’s death. Those obvious cases are the severe ones. Naturally, this gives a plaintiff a higher award which skews the averaged award amount. Furthermore, in the past 20 years patient medical costs have increased at almost twice the rate of insurance company payouts from medical malpractice claims. This indicates that insurance companies are attempting to increase their profits while blaming high prices on greedy personal injury lawyers.

Medical errors can have a devastating and lasting effect on the victim and their family. If you have been a victim of medical negligence in Vermont or New Hampshire, it is advisable to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss your right to compensation.

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