There are many ways to measure the state of medical malpractice in America. Claims and rates are declining, but are lawsuits against physicians actually tapering off? Not really. This is a brief overview of the changing landscape:
– Payouts from medical malpractice claims in 2012 totaled $3.6 billion – a 3.4% drop from the previous year. 56.7% of medical malpractice insurance rates were flat in 2013; 28.8% decreased, and 13.7% increased. The drop in premiums continues a 6-year trend;
– The average amount to defend a claim has been rising. It was $343,038 from 2007-2011. 65% of claims are dropped, withdrawn or settled, while 24% of cases are settled. Only 7% of cases reach a verdict, and of those, the defendants (doctors) win in 88% of the cases that reach a verdict;
– There are patchwork laws regarding med mal: 29 states have implemented caps on economic or noneconomic damages; 16 states limit contingent attorney’s fees; 31 states have rules involving periodic payments of damages; 37 states have ‘sorry’ laws or disclosure and early offer provisions; and every state has implemented a statute of limitations.
The frequency of lawsuits has fallen by 40%, but the rising yearly costs are a concern. Loss prevention and risk analysis are playing a more prominent role in hospitals and large medical practices – further reducing incidents and resultant suits. While observers generally believe the situation has improved for physicians; there is cause for concern over medical consolidation and the ramifications of the Affordable Care Act. Only time will tell how those will impact the medical malpractice landscape.