Medical Malpractice in a U.S. Epidemic

Medical malpractice in the U.S. is an epidemic.  According to researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine, preventable medical errors kill as many as 250,000 Americans every year, and injure countless others. That would make it the third leading cause of death in America–behind only heart disease and cancer. When was the last time you were called to donate money to help fight preventable medical errors?

Yet, the conversations about medical malpractice focus on doctor’s insurance premiums and cost of health care. The irony is that reducing the number of preventable medical errors likely would reduce health care costs and insurance premiums, while also protecting patients and their families.

What is amazing is that only a small percentage of those injured by preventable medical errors file lawsuits.   For instance, Maricopa County has 4 million people and, based on the above statistic, at least 3,125 Maricopa County residents die each year from medical negligence–that does not include the thousands injured by preventable medical errors.  Yet, there were only 269 medical malpractice lawsuits filed in 2014.

It is likely the vast majority of those lawsuits had merit. Why?

As seen from my last post, the injured person carries a huge burden of proof. Meeting this burden of proof, and facing the scorched earth defense that is typical, usually costs over $100,000 for experts, discovery costs, and other expenses. That does not include attorneys’ fees, which are usually only paid if the injured person’s case is successfully resolved. What person is going to risk over $100,000 and two years to litigate a case that has no merit?

Also note, that Courts will dismiss cases that have no merit and jurors are not easily swayed by sympathy. Therefore, the myth that doctors and hospitals pay to make frivolous cases go away is unfounded. The bigger problem is that the vast majority of health care providers who make preventable medical errors are never held accountable.

Contact me if you think your health care provider made a preventable error and caused serious and permanent injury.


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