Central New York Medical Malpractice Lawyer Explains Five Medical Malpractice Myths

Thumbnail image for surgery.jpgNew York medical malpractice attorneys,, like medical malpractice lawyers all over the U.S., are often blamed for high health care costs and other woes. But are they really to blame? No! This past November 2009, the American Association of Justice (AAJ) published a bulletin titled “Five Myths about Medical Malpractice“. It debunks, with hard statistics gathered by non-biased agencies, all the “medical malpractice myths” spouted out by the insurance industry and doctors’ PAC groups. Here is a summary of AAJ’s “Medical Malpractice Myths” bulletin:

MYTH #1: THERE ARE TOO MANY “FRIVOLOUS” MALPRACTICE LAWSUITS
Far from it. In fact there are hundreds of thousands of the medical malpractice victims each year, but very few medical malpractice lawsuits. 98,000 people die in hospitals each year from preventable medical mistakes, but only a small fraction of the families sue.. Many more suffer non-fatal injuries, yet still medical malpractice lawsuits are rare. Moreover, the number of medical malpractice suits is declining, not growing. Medical negligence filings dropped 8% between 1997 and 2006. According to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), medical malpractice cases constitute only 3% of all tort (injury) lawsuits, and only a very tiny fraction of all civil lawsuits. Medical malpractice lawsuits are not only rare, but the few that are filed are general strong cases. The Harvard School of Public Health put researchers to the task of examining over 1,400 closed medical negligence cases and found that 97 percent were meritorious.

MYTH #2: MALPRACTICE CLAIMS DRIVE UP HEALTH CARE COSTS
Not so. Medical malpractice insurance premiums, and injury payouts, constitute only a tiny fraction of health care costs. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners reports that the amount spent defending medical malpractice lawsuits and compensating the victims in 2007 amounted to only 0.3% of health care costs.

MYTH #3: DOCTORS ARE FLEEING THE PROFESSION
Not at all. The number of U.S. physicians has been growing, not declining, for decades. In fact, the number of doctors is growing faster than the general population. In 2007, the number of physicians per capita was at a record high (307 doctors for every 100,000 people).

MYTH #4: MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIMS DRIVE UP DOCTORS’ PREMIUMS.
Wrong again. Researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that malpractice settlement and verdict payments do not drive premiums up. Even though medical malpractice payouts have not increased significantly over the years, doctors’ insurance premiums have increased astronomically. Premiums spike upward when investment income is down (insurers make their money by investing the premiums in the stock market and elsewhere). Insurers need to recover their losses by jacking up premiums.

MYTH #5: TORT REFORM WILL LOWER INSURANCE RATES Tort reformers always claim that, if tort reform passes, premiums will fall. They are wrong every time. For example, premium rates in states that have capped damages (such as Texas) and states that have not (such as New York) show no appreciable difference. In fact, in 2009, the liability premiums in states without damages caps was, on average, somewhat lower than in states with such caps.

If you or a loved one is seriously injured by medical malpractice in New York, don’t buy into the myths about your right to sue driving up health care costs. Instead, see a good medical malpractice lawyer, and get the compensation you are entitled to.

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