Why Are Medical Malpractice Awards Becoming More Sizeable?

Medical Negligence Lawyer

When it comes to news stories about medical malpractice litigation, there are usually two competing narratives. The first is from the victim’s point of view. It typically details the injury and suffering they experienced as the result of a preventable error or physician negligence. In some cases, the damage can be permanent or even fatal.

But there is also a second narrative pushed by self-described “tort reform” advocates. It usually claims plaintiffs are bringing bogus claims, simply looking for a big payday and that these out-of-control medical malpractice lawsuits are driving up the costs of healthcare.

Which side is right? It depends on who you ask. But those who argue that medical malpractice lawsuits need to be reined in are often driven by personal financial motives.

New Report Claims Medical Malpractice Awards Are Growing Bigger

Two hospital professional liability insurers recently released a report (https://www.managedhealthcareexecutive.com/news/medical-malpractice-becoming-more-costly) based on analyses of their own claims records. The report finds that between 2009 and 2018, the average cost of a medical malpractice claim increased by 50 percent in the United States. In real numbers, the average paid claim increased from $400,000 to $600,000.

The report also states that the percentage of large claims (seeking $5 million or more) has increased significantly in recent years, from 1.2 percent to 1.9 percent. Why the increase in claim costs? According to the report’s authors: “We attribute this rise to a combination of aggressive plaintiff attorneys and generous jury awards.”

The Actual Reasons Claims May Be Increasing

The assertion that aggressive medical malpractice attorneys are responsible for driving up claims costs is overly simplistic. Here are some other factors to consider:

Healthcare costs are rising: the costs of medical care continue to grow at a considerable rate, which means that claims need to grow as well. After all, a medical malpractice lawsuit typically seeks reimbursement for medical bills past, present and future.

Litigation is resource-intensive: Medical malpractice claims are among the most difficult personal injury cases to litigate. They require months of research, coordination with medical experts and a detailed understanding of the standard of medical care and how a physician failed to meet that standard. Few attorneys dabble in medical malpractice. It is an area of personal injury law that requires dedication, staff, time and money. With so many resources required on the front end, the jury award needs to be sufficient to compensate the victim and pay the costs of litigation.

Hospitals evade responsibility: When mistakes are made that cause harm, patients and their families are often looking for an explanation and an apology. Because hospitals are worried about their legal liability, however, physicians are often prohibited from giving patients these basic respects. Desperate for answers and justice, many patients turn to medical malpractice litigation as their only remaining option. This may not drive up the costs of individual claims, but it does result in more lawsuits than necessary, placing a financial burden on the entire system.

Legal Assistance Is Available

If you or a loved one has been seriously harmed (or worse) by medical negligence, you have the right to understand what happened and to seek appropriate compensation. For all the reasons mentioned above and more, it is important to work with an experienced attorney throughout the process. Please contact an attorney, like a medical malpractice attorney in Memphis, TN, to discuss your rights and legal options today. 



Thank you to the Law Firm of Darrell Castle & Associates PLLC, for their insight into medical malpractice law.