THE FIVE MYTHS OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE: MYTH #1
Myth #1: There are too many frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits filed in America.
There is an epidemic of medical negligence…not lawsuits. Two studies of the patient safety movement have shown that not only are hundreds of thousands of patients injured every year in the health care system, but very few of them sue.
According to the Institute of Medicine, 98,000 people die in hospitals each year as a result of preventable medical errors, costing the health care system $29 billion in excess costs. Hundreds of thousands more suffer non-fatal injuries. Despite the massive number of medical injuries, medical malpractice lawsuits are uncommon. According to researchers at Harvard, only one in eight people injured by medical negligence file a malpractice claim.
Further, the number of medical negligence filings has steadily declined in the last decade, as has the amount paid out in jury verdicts and settlements. According to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), tort cases comprise only about six percent of the civil caseload. Medical negligence cases account for just three percent of the tort subsection. The number of medical negligence filings dropped eight percent between 1997 and 2006.
Finally, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health examined over 1,400 closed medical negligence claims and found that 97 percent of claims were meritorious and that 80 percent involved death or serious injury. According to the authors, “portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown.”