The True Cost of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Medical Malpractice Claims Impose Hidden Costs on the Healthcare System
In an average year, approximately 17,000 medical malpractice lawsuits are filed in the U.S. Although this might seem like a small number in light of the millions of Americans who seek medical care every year, this figure actually translates to the average physician being named in a medical malpractice claim once every seven years in their career. Of course, medical malpractice claims involve other healthcare professionals beyond doctors, including registered nurses, pharmacists, chiropractors, dentists, physical therapists, and psychologists.
Medical malpractice claims can often be an expensive and time-intensive process. When a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed in court, it starts the process of discovery, in which medical records, bills, notes, and other information are exchanged between the parties. The testimony of those involved in the patient’s care may also be taken in a deposition. Most medical malpractice cases also require the parties to hire medical experts to explain why the defendant healthcare professional’s actions did or did not constitute malpractice. This process can be expensive and slow, and in the end, the practitioner may still have to pay the patient in a settlement or to satisfy a judgment following a trial. Unfortunately, this complexity and expense impose costs on the healthcare system.
How Practitioners Can Avoid Malpractice
Healthcare professionals can both avoid the costs of medical malpractice while also ensuring better treatment outcomes by following a few best practices, including:
- Take the time to listen to the patient. Don’t make assumptions or discount a patient’s complaints or reports.
- Make sure to seek out continuing education to keep up with new and updated practices.
- Try not to avoid conflict with a patient who seems unhappy. Make an effort to talk to the patient about their dissatisfaction with their care.
- Obtain fully informed consent from the patient before starting treatment — this involves not just explaining the benefits of a proposed treatment but also ensuring that the patient understands the potential risks of adverse outcomes from a treatment.
- Always follow up whenever seeking a second opinion, referring a patient to another provider, ordering tests, or completing a treatment or procedure, or discharging a patient from care.
Improving the Medical Malpractice System
One study found that only about one in 15 patients who were harmed by negligent care actually received financial compensation. However, about five out of six patients who obtained compensation in a medical malpractice claim did not appear to have been the victim of any negligence at all. Proposals for improving the medical malpractice claims system include:
- Rather than having the more ambiguous “accepted standard of care” to guide a practitioner’s care, adopting a more well-defined guidelines system. Practitioners compliant with the guidelines would be presumed not negligent in their treatment of patients.
- Setting up an arbitration or alternative dispute resolution process, allowing for quicker and less expensive resolution of medical malpractice claims.
- Establishing an administrative system similar to workers’ compensation, where specially trained judges or hearing officers would review patients’ claims and award compensation to help treat injury or harm that they have suffered, without the need to find fault or negligence on the part of practitioners.
- Requiring hospitals to pay some or all the cost of malpractice insurance for all healthcare professionals, especially doctors who work at or have privileges at the hospital, should incentivize hospitals to more closely monitor practitioners’ performance.
Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Berger & Lagnese Can Help You Navigate the Complexities of the Legal System
Given the significant costs of medical malpractice claims, practitioners and malpractice insurance companies have a strong incentive to limit the compensation they pay to injured patients. When you are pursuing a medical malpractice claim, you need aggressive legal counsel with the expertise necessary to handle your case no matter the complexity or obstacles involved.
Two of the most important factors to consider when choosing an attorney or law firm to help you with your medical malpractice claim are the skill and track record of the lawyer or firm. At Berger & Lagnese, our medical malpractice lawyers have a track record of securing successful outcomes on behalf of our clients, including winning some of the largest medical malpractice settlements and verdicts in Pittsburgh. Medical malpractice claims can be incredibly complicated, and without experienced legal representation, you run the risk of not receiving the maximum value of your claim or expending far more time and financial expense than you otherwise might need to. When you choose Berger & Lagnese, you can rest assured that our firm has the legal knowledge and resources needed to effectively and efficiently obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
Contact Our Firm Today for a Free Case Review to Learn How Knowledgeable Medical Malpractice Attorneys Can Assist You in Pursuing Compensation for Your Injuries
If you’ve suffered an adverse outcome after receiving medical treatment and have incurred financial and personal losses, as a result, call or contact the medical malpractice lawyers of Berger & Lagnese today for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about the process of pursuing a medical malpractice claim and to discuss how our firm can help make your case proceed as smoothly and effectively as possible so that you may recover the financial compensation you need.
Frequently Asked Questions about Medical Malpractice
FAQ: What are some examples of medical malpractice?
Generally speaking, a mistake by a healthcare professional may constitute malpractice when the professional’s decisions and actions fail to comply with the accepted standards of care and the patient suffers some harm as a result that they can be financially compensated for. Common types of medical malpractice include surgical errors, misdiagnosing a patient’s condition, medication errors, failing to order diagnostic tests or misinterpreting test results, and failing to provide adequate follow-up care.
FAQ: Do most medical malpractice suits end up in court?
No. Nearly all medical malpractice claims are settled before trial, with only a small percentage of claims resulting in a verdict after a trial. In fact, most medical malpractice claims are settled even before a formal claim is filed in court. However, even though many medical malpractice claims don’t incur the expense of formal litigation, they still can have other financial costs.