What would you think if you were told that the average payout in medical malpractice cases in Michigan was roughly $7.45 per year for 2012 and 2013? Maybe you’d be indifferent, not knowing whether that’s good or bad. Maybe you’d argue in favor of tort reform to reduce the occurrence of malpractice cases, or maybe you’d argue that the legal system needs to do more to protect patients who are harmed by their doctors.
Whatever your reaction, this is the number provided by Diederich Healthcare in its annual compilation of medical malpractice payouts, which it reports to the National Practitioner Data Bank. The numbers only include payouts following a written request, which leaves out those made after merely verbal requests or those occurring during mediations. Still, the numbers are thought to be pretty accurate.
A couple interesting things about medical malpractice litigation should be remembered, though, when considering yearly payouts. First is that most cases—96 percent according to sources—of medical malpractice which result in a payout are resolved outside of court. This is significant, because it shows that litigation is not the primary way injured patients obtain compensation.
The other side of the coin is that most cases where doctors decide to take a case to trial end up being resolved in their favor. In other words, health care providers tend to win when they decide to fight allegations of medical malpractice. One reason for this may be that health care providers only take cases to trial when the merits of the case are weak. There may be other factors at play, though.
It is critical for patients who are harmed by a negligent physician to work with an experienced attorney who understands the negotiation and litigation process, and who is committed to resolving the case in the most efficient manner possible. It isn’t always the most efficient way to go to trial. In some cases, negotiating a settlement is the patient’s best bet for compensation.
Source: Forbes, “The Puzzle of Medical Malpractice Payouts,” Michael Krauss, March 27, 2014.