As a St Louis injury lawyer handling St Louis medical malpractice lawsuits, I see the continued attack on the legal profession and my injured clients from people and organizations with the knee jerk reaction of claiming medical negligence cases are somehow inherently wrong and that juries and the legal system routinely overcompensate claimants. However, the statistics show this is an urban myth, likely believed by many people because of political affiliations or as the result of a very effective and concerted effort by the malpractice insurance companies to put these falsehoods out there.
According to a Medical Malpractice study by Harvard University and Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the "frivolous lawsuit" argument is overblown:
"The researchers analyzed past malpractice claims to judge the volume of meritless lawsuits and determine their outcomes. Their findings suggest that portraits of a malpractice system riddled with frivolous lawsuits are overblown. Although nearly one third of claims lacked clear-cut evidence of medical error, most of these suits did not receive compensation. In fact, the number of meritorious claims that did not get paid was actually larger than the group of meritless claims that were paid. "
The Harvard research team sampled 31,000 medical records and found that one out of every 25 patients was injured by doctors. Of those injured, only 4 percent filed lawsuits. In another study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health and two other foundations, they found that of 1,452 medical malpractice lawsuits filed, 90 percent did show medical injury. A quarter of these claims were fatalities. Only six cases resulted in what could be called a "frivolous lawsuit"; meaning that compensation was paid, but no injury was identified.
A much bigger issue than "frivolous lawsuits" was that 236 malpractice cases were dismissed by the court despite proof of doctor error and some injury to the patient. Only 1,050 of the 1,452 cases were determined to have been decided correctly.
As we see by this small summary of a very lengthy study, healthcare issues of insurance rates, costs, and the myth of "defensive medicine" cannot be contributed to medical malpractice lawsuits. Many different hospitals and health centers are reworking their procedures to ensure better treatment, thereby decreasing mistakes, injuries, and ultimately lawsuits.
An example of this is the University of Michigan Medical System. Their restructuring of their procedures have resulted in half the number of lawsuits filed against their facilities and physicians. A policy of admitting fault and owning up to their mistakes rather than hiding mistakes from patients.