Trends in medical malpractice claims and payouts are promising. For the past 20 years claims for smaller settlements have dropped by 55%.
It’s not all good news, though, claims for larger settlements have been going up. Today, a medical malpractice claim over $5 million is likely to pay out closer to $10 million.
These patterns reflect a few changes in the ways that medical establishments comport themselves as well as changes in malpractice insurance and litigation processes.
It’s often difficult to pinpoint what is causing a trend because it’s so rarely a single obvious cause. Trends are the results of numerous factors that converge over time.
Within the US, the differences in regulations from one state to another can cause interesting fluctuations when looking at a national trend. For example, despite the overall lower number of claims paying out less than $500,000, most claims paying out in general are in New York.
Changes in the medical field have produced tighter controls to limit medical errors. This is the hope of the adversarial relationship between litigation and business. You want responsibility on the part of the businesses to prevent harm to the public.
The upward trend in large claim settlements has a few worrying components.
The Worry Over Larger Settlements
One possibility for the trend of larger settlements is that fewer small errors are coming out of medical establishments, leaving only the dire errors to go to trial. While this is positive for limiting harm across a wider number of people it tends to mean far more grievous harm is impacting a few people.
The other reason for larger settlements is that litigation costs are rising. This comes form a combination of more hours being put in to fight a case in court and more hours necessary to find information in pre-trial.
While it is hoped that fewer cases mean fewer errors, it is also possible that errors are still occurring, they are just becoming harder to find through a labyrinth of paperwork.
The Effect of Malpractice Insurance Providers
Industry reports coming out of malpractice insurance providers indicate they’re facing a tough market. Smaller insurers are closing as their payouts make turning a profit increasingly unlikely.
With fewer providers to choose from, competition becomes less profound and premiums rise for doctors and hospitals.
Hospitals are more likely to pick up basic coverage, which leaves the hospital paying more in the event of a case resulting in a settlement.
On top of this, insurance providers are more worried about their bottom line and are more likely to fight harder in court to retain their profit margins.
In the current medical malpractice claim environment, the stakes are higher than ever. Fewer cases are being brought and they are trending towards higher settlements. This makes every step of the process costly in terms of time and effort.
Fighting for compensation for injuries and loss of life to loved ones is already emotionally difficult it need not get more so. Contact us for advice and direction in handling your medical malpractice claim. We’re here to help.