Potential pattern found in medical malpractice payouts

A recently released study provides new insights into the world of medical errors and even indicates which types of providers are most often involved in claims.

New Yorkers who find themselves worried about the safety of their medical care may have good reason to do so. While most of the time people can see doctors or other providers without problem, this is sadly not always the case. Medical errors are an unfortunate reality in the United States today.

A New England Journal of Medicine study provides a fresh view on medical malpracticeclaims and payouts in the U.S. The results indicate that some patterns may suggest a profile of providers more apt to be involved in these claims. The study utilized 10 years of records from the U.S. National Practitioner Data Bank ranging from 2005 through 2014.

What providers are involved in claims and payouts?

Throughout the 10 years of the study, the number of medical malpractice claims that resulted in payouts exceeded 66,000. Of those payouts, nearly one third were attributed to a mere 1 percent of providers. In addition, it was discovered that health care professionals with previous claims against them were more likely to be the subject of subsequent claims. Those subsequent claims faced a greater chance of resulting in payouts if the previous claims also ended with payouts to claimants.

Of all types of doctors, five areas of specialty were involved in 41 percent of payouts. These areas were family practitioners, general surgeons, obstetricians, gynecologists and internists. The most common profile of a physician who was the subject of a claim included those over 35, male, and with prior claims made against them.

The vast majority of claims that received payouts involved significant physical injuries or death.

What are New York's medical malpractice laws?

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New York is one of the few states that does not limit the amount of money that can be awarded for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.

The state's statute of limitations requires that any claim of alleged medical negligence be initiated within 30 months of the date that the injury was sustained. The New York Daily News reports that this is different than the date on which an injury was first learned of. The latter is often referred to as a discovery rule and is incorporated in the statutes of limitations in many other states but not in New York. If a patient does not discover a problem until after the 30-month statute of limitations has run out, there may be no opportunity to seek compensation.

What should concerned patients and family members do?

Anyone who suspects that they or a loved one may have been impacted by a medical error should discuss their case with an attorney. Prompt action in this regard is essential, especially given the lack of a discovery rule in the statute of limitations.

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