Why Medical Malpractice Payments Have Hit All-Time Low

A new report from public-interest watchdog group Public Citizen found that medical malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors hit their lowest level in 2012. The report refutes allegations that malpractice claims have increased healthcare costs, although it does raise concerns that some malpractice victims may not be receiving just compensation for their injuries.

Malpractice payments decline in number and value

Using data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, Public Citizen discovered that both the number and the value of malpractice payments was the lowest on record. Both numbers had fallen for the ninth straight year. In fact, the value of payments made had fallen in 2012 to the lowest level since 1998, even if the numbers were not adjusted for inflation.

This new data seems to refute claims by some lawmakers that medical malpractice payments are raising healthcare costs on a national level. Although malpractice awards have declined by nearly 29 percent between 2003 and 2012, the cost of healthcare has not declined in a similar fashion. In addition, concerns over safety in healthcare continue, as few improvements seem to have been made in this area.

“We now have a decade’s worth of data debunking the litigation canard,” Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division, stated on the organization’s website. “Policymakers need to focus on reducing medical errors, not reducing accountability for medical errors.”

According to numbers provided by National Practitioners Data Bank, the total number of malpractice payments on behalf of doctors was 9,379 in 2012. The total value of payments made was $3.1 billion. If that number is adjusted for inflation, it is the lowest amount of malpractice payments on record. If inflation is factored in, the value still marks a steady decline in the amount of malpractice payments distributed over the past nine years.

Declining payments don’t translate to lower healthcare costs

Public Citizen also found that medical malpractice payments made up approximately one-tenth of the total healthcare costs in the United States. Unfortunately, the cost of healthcare has continued to rise by 58 percent over the past decade. Reports also indicate that there continues to be a high rate of adverse events in hospitals, despite the decline in payouts on behalf of physicians.

The majority of malpractice victims that have received payments on malpractice claims were due to death, catastrophic injury or serious permanent injuries. The majority of malpractice allegations involve failure to diagnose, which encompasses nearly one-third of all malpractice claims. Other relatively common malpractice allegations relate to treatment, surgery or obstetrical care.

New York medical malpractice lawsuits

New York is the state with the highest number of malpractice payments, totaling more than $760 million in 2012. Many of those seeking compensation in the state have suffered the death of a loved one or catastrophic injuries that will require a lifetime of care and medical treatment. The cost of such a loss or injury can be extensive, taxing families with financial stress on top of the physical and emotional suffering they are already dealing with.

If you have been a victim of medical malpractice in New York, The Sanders Firm may be able to help. Our New York personal injury lawyers have helped hundreds of patients who have suffered at the hands of medical providers they trusted for care and treatment. These victims have received compensation for their suffering, ongoing medical expenses and lost wages.

The Sanders Firm works with residents of Queens, Long Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan. If you have been injured by medical malpractice or negligence, call our offices today at 1.800.FAIR.PLAY. We provide free case evaluations and do not charge any legal fees unless our clients receive a settlement or jury award.