The common perception in the insurance industry, particularly among those with knowledge of the medical malpractice (med mal) insurance business and med mal claims, is that many med mal claims are frivolous. A recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health (see here) supports this perspective, we think, but you might not be so sure based on some of the headlines.
The press release (see here) from Harvard has the following headlines:
Study Casts Doubt on Claims That the Medical Malpractice System Is Plagued By Frivolous Lawsuits
System Does a Good Job of Rejecting Claims Without Merit, but Administrative Costs Are Exorbitant
Other headlines are mixed, with a few reaching similar conclusions and most others reaching a different conclusion:
- Study: Four Out of 10 Medical Malpractice Cases are Groundless (Insurance Journal, see here)
- Study of malpractice suits shows 40% without merit (Mercury News, see here)
- About 40% of Malpractice Suits Are Groundless, Study Concludes (WSJ, see here $$$)
- Harvard Study: Medical Malpractice Problem’s Overblown (WSJ Law Blog, see here)
- Four in 10 Malpractice Cases Groundless (Washington Post, see here $$$)
- Study asserts many medical malpractice suits groundless (Houston Chronicle, see here)
- Frivolous Litigation Unlikely In Medical Malpractice Cases (MedPage Today, see here)
The study reviewed 1,452 closed claims, 90% of which involved a physical injury. Some of the key findings are:
- 63% were due to error
- 37% lacked evidence of error
- 72% of claims lacking evidence of error did not receive compensation
- 73% of claims involving error received compensation
- Litigation costs averaged $52,521 per claim, or 54% of compensation to the plaintiffs
The author concludes:
Overall, the malpractice system appears to be getting it right about three quarters of the time. That’s far from a perfect record, but it’s not bad, especially considering that questions of error and negligence can be complex
The insurance industry and the medical community might reach a different conclusion. And we expect the trial bar to claim the study was full of errors or biased.
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