Posted by Bill Sandweg on 20 May 2019.
As any observer of medical malpractice in the United States knows, there is a lot of malpractice out there but few of the victims make a claim and fewer still make a financial recovery. Turns out things aren’t much better north of the border.
The Canadian Broadcasting Company, known as the CBC, is the national broadcaster for Canada. The CBC recently did an investigation into malpractice claims that revealed many trends similar to those seen in the United States. The researchers discovered that, even though the number of doctors and patients has been growing, there are fewer claims being made by patients than in the past. And when patients do make a claim, they are less likely than in the past to be successful in making a recovery.
In the 1970’s, the CBC reports that in cases that went to trial, patients were successful roughly one-third of the time. In the last five years, however, that success rate has dropped to one in five. This is roughly similar to success rates for patients in the United States.
Overall, of cases filed in the last five years, just over 55% were either dropped, dismissed or abandoned. At least some of this may be due to the aggressive defense by the taxpayer subsidized Canadian Protective Medical Association, which insures most doctors in Canada. Of the filed cases, 36.7% were settled. This number is also similar to practice in the United States. The remaining 8% of the filed cases went to trial. Overall, only 1.6% of the patients who filed suit in the last five years, were successful at trial in obtaining a verdict against the doctor.
According to the CBC investigation, many of the same factors which work against patients in the United States, are also at work in Canada discouraging patients from making claims. One of the most important factors is cost. As in the United States, these cases are vigorously defended by the insurance company, which hires excellent, aggressive attorneys to represent the physicians.
As here, patients need to present expert witness testimony to prove their cases and this is a substantial expense with many experts charging over $500 per hour.
According to a lawyer who used to represent Canadian doctors but now represents injured patients, most lawyers won’t consider a case that has a value less than $250,000.00. That again is very similar to practice in the United States. The vast resources of the Canadian Medical Protective Association allow it to mount an aggressive and well-financed defense which few patients can afford to match.
Canadian victims of medical malpractice, we feel your pain and know just what you are going through.