Medical Malpractice Claims and Payments
The report found that both the rate of medical malpractice claims and the dollar amount of malpractice payments have been decreasing for the last 15 years. There was a small increase in malpractice payments last year (from $3.1 billion in 2012 to $3.3 billion in 2013), but the report notes that overall trends indicate a steady downward progression. Furthermore, the value of medical malpractice payments when adjusted for inflation is less than what it was 20 years ago, and substantially less than what it was 10 years ago.
- Inflation adjusted medical malpractice payments in 1991 - $3.6 billion
- Inflation adjusted medical malpractice payments in 2001 - $5.8 billion
- Inflation adjusted medical malpractice payments in 2013 - $3.3 billion.
The report claims that damage caps which went into effect during the 2000’s are responsible for this decrease. And while the caps were put in place in large part to discourage frivolous lawsuits, the report found that the majority of medical malpractice claims are anything but. From Medpagetoday:
Three-fifths of all payments in 2013 were associated with negligence that led to “significant permanent injury, major permanent injury, quadriplegia, brain damage, the need for lifelong care, or death.”
Injuries Remain a Problem
Despite the fact that malpractice claims and payments are decreasing, patient injuries as a result of medical error remain a concern. The report cited numerous studies to support this claim, including a recent study in the Journal of Patient Safety that estimated more than 400,000 patients die every year as a result of preventable harm in hospitals. Furthermore, while injuries remain a pressing issue, medical malpractice insurance premiums have been steadily decreasing.