Pathologists and Medical Malpractice Litigation under the Spotlight

Modern medicine has led to significant advances, and also significant dangers. When doctors make mistakes, the consequences can be deadly. Whether the medical mistake involves a doctor operating on the wrong body part or giving the wrong medication to a patient, it is often life-changing for the victim and the victim’s family. Although money cannot fully compensate for such a significant loss, a medical malpractice lawsuit can help cover the cost of hefty medical bills, lost wages and future treatments.

In order to protect against the threat of liability for medical mistakes, many physicians have medical malpractice insurance. According to a recent study conducted by Patients for Fair Compensation (PFC), healthcare providers, particularly pathologists, are estimated in 2011 to have paid close to $31 billion for malpractice insurance. The research claims that pathologists stand a greater risk of malpractice claims than those in other specialized medical fields. They are also more likely to have outcomes that are unfavorable during litigation. With efficient wrongful death lawyers, patients always get a fair deal.

These results were arrived at after examining the various outcomes of litigation on each of the physician specialties. There were two important findings made in the pathology specialty – litigated malpractice claims made against pathologists had the least percentage of suits that were dismissed in court. These claims against pathologists more frequently proceeded to the trial verdict stage compared to other physician specialties. Among the pathologists examined were clinical lab pathologists as well as anatomic pathologists.

There were claims in excess of 10,000 from 2002 to 2005 that were reviewed from a liability insurer. The goals of the study were to ascertain the proportion of malpractice claims that resulted in litigation, study the resolution of litigated claims according to the medical specialty, and calculate the time needed for resolving the various kinds of claims. One of the other important findings made as part of this research is that the area of specialization does have a bearing on the possible outcome in malpractice claims. The increased risk of unfavorable ruling for pathologists in malpractice claims is an example.

The report also shed light on the fact that the malpractice insurance premiums which physicians had to pay in 2011 reached close to $31 billion, which was an all-time record. It is estimated that around 80% of this amount, which equates to around $25 billion, was channeled for insurance company profits, administrative costs and legal expenses which included compensating attorneys. Only around 20% of the amount, a mere $6 billion, amounted to the compensation actually received by the 19,000 patients.

However, it is important to note that while some may blame rising insurance costs on large medical malpractice verdicts, a large body of research debunks that myth. In fact, studies have found that an increase in the number of medical malpractice claims actually has no effect on insurance costs whatsoever. Even in states that have limited, or “capped” liability awards in medical malpractice cases, insurance rates continue to rise.

Medical malpractice costs account for less than 2 percent of overall healthcare costs in this country. Malpractice lawsuits are one of the few ways that doctors are held accountable for delivering poor quality of care. Victims of preventable medical errors should be compensated for their injuries, which are often life-changing. A skilled wrongful death lawyer can help ensure that patients get a fair deal.


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