Is Medical Malpractice Common? Insurance, Litigation and Law Myths (2005)

Doctors’ groups, patients, and insurance companies have criticized medical malpractice litigation as expensive, adversarial, unpredictable, and inefficient. About the book:

They claim that the cost of medical malpractice litigation in the United States has steadily increased at almost 12 percent annually since 1975.[21] More recent research from the same source has found that tort costs as a percentage of GDP dropped between 2001 and 2009, and are now at their lowest level since 1984.[22] Jury Verdict Research, a database of plaintiff and defense verdicts, says awards in medical liability cases increased 43 percent in 1999, from 0,000 to ,000,000. However, more recent research from the U.S. Department of Justice has found that median medical malpractice awards in states range from 9,000 to 5,000.[23]

These critics assert that these rate increases are causing doctors to go out of business or move to states with more favorable tort systems.[24] Not everyone agrees, though, that medical malpractice lawsuits are solely causing these rate increases.[25] A 2003 report from the General Accounting Office found multiple reasons for these rate increases, with medical malpractice lawsuits being the primary driver.[26] Despite noting multiple reasons for rate increases, the report goes on to state that the “GAO found that losses on medical malpractice claims-which make up the largest part of insurers’ costs-appear to be the primary driver of rate increases in the long run.” More recent data has indicated that medical malpractice rates are generally no longer rising. In 2011, data pooled from the industry by the publication Medical Liability Monitor indicated that medical malpractice insurance rates had declined for four straight years. The decrease was seen in both states that had enacted tort reform and in states that had not, leading actuaries familiar with the data to suggest that patient safety and risk management campaigns had had a more significant effect.[27]

The major tort reform proposals have been:

Special medical malpractice courts
Limits on noneconomic damages
Reduction in the statute of limitations of action
The majority of the American public supports reforms to the malpractice system. However, surveys show that the majority of the American public also vastly underestimate the extent of medical errors.[28] Recent research has shown that while both health consumers and health producers are concerned about some of the adverse consequences of healthcare litigation, health consumers perceive that increased healthcare litigation can reduce the incentives for negligence on the part of healthcare providers.

At the same time, studies of these claims have found that there is no problem of increasing malpractice verdicts and insurance costs driving doctors out of business.
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