A recent study of 10,056 medical malpractice claims in the United States from 2002 through 2005 that involved at least some defense costs sought to determine how many of those claims resulted in medical malpractice litigation, how long the claims took to resolve, and which medical specialties were involved.
The study found that 55.2% of the medical malpractice claims that incurred at least some defense costs resulted in litigation, although most of the medical malpractice cases that were litigated resulted in favor of the medical malpractice defendant(s) (79.6% that went to final verdict were in favor of the medical malpractice defendant(s)).
As to the frequency of medical malpractice claims that resulted in litigation in various medical specialties, the study found that the range was from 62.6% for obstetricians and gynecologists to 46.7% for anesthesiologists (internists and medicine-based subspecialists were in the middle of the range, at about 53%).
With regard to the results of litigation involving medical malpractice claims for all medical specialties, 54.1% were dismissed by the court (the range was from 61.5% for internists and medicine-based subspecialists to 36.5% for pathologists).
A mere 4.5% of medical malpractice cases were decided by a verdict after trial (the range was 7.4% for pathologists to 2.0% for anesthesiologists: once again, internists and medicine-based subspecialists were in the middle of the range, with 2.7% decided by a verdict after trial).
The study found that the mean amount of time it took to resolve medical malpractice claims was 19.0 months (25.1 months for litigated medical malpractice claims and 11.6 months for medical malpractice claims that were not litigated).
With regard to medical malpractice claims that were resolved as a result of trial, the study found that the mean amount of time to resolve those claims was 39.0 months for cases decided in favor of the defendant(s) and 43.5 months for cases decided in favor of the plaintiff(s).
While the study’s authors expressed their concern about the emotional effect of the delays in resolving medical malpractice claims that involve litigation on medical malpractice defendants, one must not lose sight of the effects of the delays in obtaining fairness and justice for those who are the victims of medical negligence.
While a doctor who is defending a medical malpractice claim against him/her may continue to practice medicine during the pendency of the litigation as if nothing ever had happened to their patient, the effects on the patient who has suffered severe, permanent, and life-changing injuries and losses (and the effects on the patient’s family) are sudden and devastating — many of the victims of medical malpractice cannot continue to work to support themselves and their families, continue to go to school, or continue living their normal lives in the manner that they chose just before they became the innocent victims of medical malpractice.
It appears that most people would agree that the delays inherent in the medical malpractice litigation process in the United States benefit no one, but everyone should also recognize that the delays typically hurt and harm medical malpractice victims and their families much more drastically and much more harshly than the medical malpractice defendants.
If you or a loved one have been injured (or worse) as a result of medical negligence, you owe it to yourself and to your family to promptly contact a local medical malpractice attorney to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you.
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