Med mal claims cheaper out of court

A new analysis of medical malpractice claims in seven states has concluded that only a small percentage of claimants ended up with cash--though nearly a fifth of cash-generating claims led to payments of $1 million or more. It also found that the costs tended to be much lower if the case never went to trial.

The study, which was done by the U.S. Department of Justice, looked at medical malpractice suits in Illinois, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada and Texas from 2000 to 2004. The DOJ found that a large number of payouts over the four-year period settled for less than $250,000. However, if the case went to trial, payouts were generally much higher. For example, in Florida, Nevada and Texas, claims that went to trial resulted in median payouts that averaged two and a half times larger than settled claims.

DOJ researchers found that virtually all (95 percent) of claims filed in these states during that period were settled prior to trial. About one third of med mal claims closing in Maine, Missouri and Nevada generated payouts, while 12 percent of claims in Illinois resulted in payouts. The markedly lower payout rate in Illinois may be attributable to changes in med mal law enacted in 2005, which limited awards and increased state oversight of doctors and med mal insurers.

To get more stats on med mal patterns:
- read this Associated Press article
- read the DOJ report and press release