Study Says Only One in Five Medical Malpractice Cases Pay

A new study published by the New England Journal of Medicine reports that only one in five medical malpractice cases results in a payout.  The authors noted an earlier study which found that only a fraction of those patients who were victimized by medical negligence actually file a claim.  While a frequent refrain of the Republican party is that medical malpractice cases drive up insurance rates, this study seems to undercut that position.  In addition to few payouts (recent statistics in Cook County show that juries are entering verdicts for malpractive victims less than 25% of the time), there are significant barriers for a plaintiff to bring a claim to court in the first place.  Illinois law requires that a plaintiff obtain a medical report from a physician certifying that the claim is viable.  Obtaining reports from experts can cost thousands of dollars.  The study analyzed data from about 41,000 physicians who bought medical malpractice insurance coverage from a particular insurer between 1991 and 2005.  Among key findings in the study were: about 7.5% of doctors have a malpractice claim filed against them annually, fewer than 2% of doctors were the subject of a successful malpractice claim, and certain practice areas, such as neurosurgeons and heart surgeons were sued more often.  While pediatricians were sued less frequently, the amount of the award was $520,000 much larger than the average malpractice claim.