A patient can file for medical malpractice if a healthcare practitioner doesn’t uphold the standards of the profession, resulting in the patient’s harm. Physicians, surgeons, nurses, midwives, and allied health professionals are liable to medical malpractice laws.
Typically, most malpractice cases are due to negligence on the doctor or nurse’s part. This can be mistakes in diagnosis or treatment, as well as errors in aftercare or health management.
These unfortunate cases are more common than you think, so much so that the legal industry has produced medical malpractice lawyers who specialize in the assistance for victims of healthcare negligence.
Here are medical malpractice statistics in 2019 that will surprise you:
Most Physicians Have Been Accused of Malpractice
A majority of medical professionals have been investigated for alleged malpractice claims. While not all of them were found guilty, a significant portion was required to repay the patients for their unpleasant experience.
There are three requirements for a medical malpractice claim to be eligible for investigation. First, you must prove that a practitioner-patient relationship was established.
Next, you should have proof that the healthcare professional was negligent in their duties regarding your diagnosis or cure. You can’t claim for malpractice just because the results after treatment weren’t up to your expectations.
Lastly, after providing evidence of negligence, you must show a correlation between the practitioner’s carelessness and the injury you sustained after being checked by them. The result may be categorized into physical pain, psychological trauma, financial losses, or reduction of earning capacity.
Medical Negligence is a Leading Cause of Death
In August 2019, American science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted that 500 people die due to medical errors every two days. However, David Gorski, a physician, clarified with Science Alert that, while the statistic is accurate, the report was done without providing context.
He explained that adverse events, in this case deaths, happen even without medical errors. Some things are simply unpreventable.
Moreover, a lot of these deaths occur in elderly or sickly people. These are the ones who weren’t likely to live longer than a year.
Kentucky Has a Lot of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
According to Medscape’s Malpractice Report for 2019, Kentucky garnered the highest malpractice lawsuits. They surveyed over 4,000 physicians in various fields of specialization.
Factors that influenced these cases included the relationship among doctors, lawmakers, and patients in the locality. Nevada, Illinois, New Mexico, and Indiana make up the top five states with lots of malpractice suits. Florida, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, and Arizona complete the top ten list.
Many Negligence Cases Were Caused By Failing to Diagnose
Most medical malpractice claims are a result of a healthcare professional failing to diagnose an issue. The practitioner may have overlooked a particular angle in determining the best way to go about solving the problem.
Another common type of medical malpractice is not providing the patient with appropriate treatment. This can lead to more physical pain and emotional trauma.
The process can go two ways: The practitioner may have totally deviated from the standard method of treating the disease, or they may have administered medicine incompetently.
Failing to warn the patient about the risks of their health condition is also grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. The healthcare professional must inform their client about what to expect as the disease runs its course.
Complications from treatment or after surgery were the second most prevalent reason for this type of case.
The Average Time Spent for the Lawsuit Process was One to Two Years
Medical malpractice is a tricky lawsuit to judge because even experts find it a challenge to arrive at a unanimous conclusion. You may be required to bring in another medical expert to support your claim.
Plus, the investigation has a lot of levels to ensure that the patient is compensated appropriately for what they went through. This also ensures that practitioners aren’t incorrectly convicted and stripped of their licenses.
This is why the average time to complete the lawsuit process takes an average of one to two years. Some cases even go as long as three to five years.
The Damages Incurred through Malpractice May Be Millions
CBS News reported that the average payout for malpractice claims increased to over 350,000 USD between the years of 2009 and 2014. This amount was higher by 23 percent from 1992 to 1996’s 287,000 USD average.
Fast forward to another five years, this figure may be even higher now, especially with the frequent reports on malpractice that are published online.
However, this just represents the payout for successful claims. A majority of claimants may have incurred more damages, which could possibly amount to millions, especially if you take into account the loss of earning capacity after the botched treatment.
One factor for this is that most states impose caps on recoverable damages for private institutions, with some localities setting the maximum to as low as 250,000 USD. The government then covers the rest of the penalty, which is still taxpayers’ money.
In 2019, doctors are required to cover the first 500,000 USD, which is a 100,000 USD increase from the previous years.
Medical malpractice is a common occurrence in the US. A majority of physicians have been accused of negligence, which has made medical errors a leading cause of death in the country.
Kentucky has the most number of lawsuits, with Nevada and Illinois coming in second and third place, respectively. Moreover, this type of legal case has primarily been caused by failing to diagnose rather than by an active error.
Because of the field’s sensitive nature, investigations take about a year or two to complete. This way, the legal system is assured that they arrive at the correct conclusion.
Furthermore, damages incurred through malpractice often cost millions of dollars for the provider and the government. The losses are still more significant for the patient, though, because they are the ones who lose the earning capacity if they’re left with considerable injuries after a botched diagnosis or treatment.