A study released by the American Medical Association in May, 2012 recently disclosed the results of a comprehensive analysis of medical malpractice claims brought between the years 2002-2005. The study included all claims wherein a physician’s or other medical provider’s insurance company had expended at least some defense costs and excluded those claims that were dropped without any defense costs being incurred.
Of all claims analyzed, just over 55% resulted in litigation being filed. The percentage of claims resulting in litigation varied among medical specialties with just over 46% of claims raised against anesthesiologists going into litigation and slightly more that 62.5% of claims raised against obstetricians and gynecologists being litigated.
A not insignificant percentage of claims that were litigated resulted in a dismissal of the claims by the Court without a settlement or trial. Although the study did not analyze the reason for these dismissals, it is likely that either the claim should not have been pursued in the first place or, conversely, that additional facts were discovered after suit was filed which revealed that no malpractice had actually occurred.
Of those cases that remained in litigation, almost exactly one third (33.3%) were resolved before a verdict was reached indicating some sort of settlement or other accommodation was made between the litigating parties. Cases that actually went to trial were less than 10%.
Interestingly, of those cases that did go to a verdict, physicians/medical providers won just under 4 out of every 5.
In our experience, careful analysis of each medical claimant’s particular facts is required before undertaking a medical negligence claim. In the referenced study, more than half of the claims actually litigated resulted in a dismissal by the Court indicating that these claims were ultimately determined by the attorney or the Court to lack merit. However, of the claims that remained in litigation, one third resulted in some form of settlement. It is thus vitally important that the merits of each claim be carefully studied before undertaking litigation against a medical provider. However, just as clearly, those cases that do have merit are likely to settle before trial if the attorney bringing the claim has investigated the merits of the claim before bringing suit.
After all, while not every adverse outcome in a medical setting is the result of negligence, in those cases where a medical provider has caused injury through negligence, the client is entitled to full and complete compensation for all losses suffered. Careful analysis of the facts of the case and a close working relationship with the client significantly improves the likelihood of a successful outcome through settlement of the claim before trial.
 Arch Intern Med. 2012; ():1-2. Doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1416; Anupam B. Jena, MD, PhD; Amitabh Chandra, PhD; Darius Lakdawalla, PhD; Seth Seabury, PhD; authors