Malpractice Payouts – Not as Common as You Think

A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that only 1 in 5 medical malpractice cases results in payment.  At first blush, this would appear to suggest that many medical negligence cases are not well-supported.  Earlier research, however, found that only a very small fraction of those harmed by medical errors ever even file a claim.  As we have discussed in earlier posts, cost is a significant barrier to bringing any claim and a significant deterrent to pursuing a frivolous claim.  The up front costs of a case can easily run into six figures, much of which may not be recovered, even if the case is successful.  In addition, damages caps and other legislative limitations have been slowly eroding the ability of medical negligence victims to obtain fair compensation for their injuries.  As Amitabh Chandra, a Harvard economist and a co-author of the study stated, “A lawyer would have to be an idiot to take a frivolous case to court.”  Rather than indicating most medical negligence claims have no merit, this study seems to suggest just how difficult it is to prevail on a meritorious claim. 



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