Research shows doctors stressed by malpractice claims

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

The average physician in the United States can expect to defend a medical malpractice case every 7 years. However, New York doctors who are sued for medical errors may spend up to a third of their careers battling these lawsuits according to a recent study. This has caused some to call for malpractice law reform, but others fear this will deprive victims of their right to hold health care personnel accountable for negligence.

The study was conducted by researchers from USC and Harvard in cooperating with a RAND Corporation economist. The researchers examined a database of over 40,000 doctors in the United States produced by The Doctors Company, the largest malpractice insurer in the United States. The data were analyzed by reviewing the number of malpractice claims by physician specialty, the severity of the injury claimed by the plaintiff and the disposition of the case.

Long waiting periods to resolve malpractice claims caused severe stress on physicians as well as patients. Adding to the problem is higher costs due to defensive legal practices. Some physicians may be unable to practice medicine after dealing with a long, drawn-out medical malpractice suit. The malpractice insurer concurred that medical malpractice cases must be resolved more quickly than the average four years it currently takes.

A medical malpractice attorney represents the victims of hospital errors or other forms of malpractice. Victims who have been injured by a doctor’s negligence are entitled to payment for their medical bills as well as sums for pain and suffering. In many cases, the only way to collect this money is to file a suit for medical malpractice injury damages.

Source: Forbes, “Medical malpractice: Broken beyond repair?” Robert Glatter, MD, Feb. 6, 2013

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