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Medical malpractice filings decrease, although payments increase

While a recent Harvard study of medical malpractice claims across the United States shows at least a 56 percent decline in the amount of filings between the years of 1992 and 2014, the payout amount on those claims has significantly risen. While the average settlement between 1992 and 1996 was shown to be $287,000, in the period between 2009 and 2014, that same rate reached as high as $353,000.

Two types of law reforms that have been passed in recent years are thought to have had the greatest impact on these statistics. One of these considerations involves the signing of laws intended to limit the amount of damages one can claim as part of a lawsuit. It is argued that this impacts an attorney's ability to take on such a complex and financially taxing case.

Additionally, legal reform has led to the creation of what essentially have become screening panels for cases -- something that has, in turn, led to weaker and thus smaller cases being either dropped or dealt with outside the courtroom. This can explain why there have been higher settlement amounts despite a reduction in cases filed or won.

Between 2009 and 2014, of 280,000 claims that were paid, 8 percent were at a rate of $1,000,000 or higher. As much as one-third of those involved a patient having died as a result of diagnostic error.

Given that statistic, it shouldn't come as a surprise that pathologists were among the physicians that experienced the highest increase in claims of all specialties. General physicians also saw an increase of a little less than $18,000.

Among the specialties that saw the most significant declines in medical malpractice lawsuits, the rate of those filed against cardiologists and pediatricians saw a reduction of as much as 14 and 76 percent respectively. It is believed that doctors being called upon to perform more life-saving cardiac procedures and the use of more sophisticated equipment in these two practice areas has resulted in this decline.

If your loved way has faced serious health complications or death as a result of suspected doctor error, a Chicago, Illinois, medical malpractice attorney will be your best ally.

Source: cbsnews.com, "Fewer medical malpractice lawsuits succeed, but payouts are up," Dennis Thompson, March 28, 2017

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