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Medical Malpractice Suits Seldom Win: Study

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 19, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Most doctors will be sued at some point during their career, with those specializing in high-risk procedures boasting nearly a 100% chance, according to a medical malpractice study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Despite the number of medical malpractice suits, the study concluded that only 22% result in some sort of payment, either via settlement or jury award.

Why? And what do these numbers say about the state of the health care industry?

According to the medical malpractice study, the lack of success is not indicative of frivolous claims.

Instead, the authors point to the cost of filing a malpractice suit, as it is incredibly expensive to file a lawsuit and hire expert witnesses, reports the Associated Press.

Medical error is also sometimes very difficult to prove.

Despite these barriers, patients and families continue to file suits, changing the culture of medicine and driving up health care costs.

The study concluded that the prevalence of medical malpractice suits places significant stress on doctors, with Dr. Alan Woodward telling the Boston Globe that such stress and fear leads to the practice of "defensive medicine."

In other words, doctors are sometimes so fearful that they order more tests than required and retire earlier than necessary.

In light of this information, it's clear that we must develop a way to balance the needs of grieving families and patients with the overall impact of malpractice suits.

While there's no definitive answer, the author of the medical malpractice study suggests that potential plaintiffs think about the what. What do they want out of the suit? Do they want information? An apology? Or is it about the money?

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