Medical Malpractice Payments Are Down But Are Medical Errors Really Decreasing?

Last year, Medical Malpractice payments hit an all time low.  The National Practitioner Databank, set up in 1991 to record medical malpractice payments also reports that payments have been decreasing consecutively for the past 8 years.

One of the reasons for the decline of medical malpractice awards could be individual state’s decisions to place a cap on non-economic damages, which limits the amount of money a plaintiff can receive for pain and suffering.   These caps have not only limited the amount of money one patient can receive, but are also preventing patients from collecting any damages, as more and more attorneys are limited the number of cases they accept because of the caps.

Another reason for the decrease in claims could be lack of reporting.  Healthcare facilities often settle a number of cases out of court.  This is often done to save both time and money.  However, these cases that are settled outside of court do not get recorded in the databank.  This medical malpractice payments that are paid out to clients as a result of the doctor or hospital’s negligence outside of court are not recorded as medical malpractice payments.  This could mean millions of dollars, potentially billions are not being recorded.

William Landess, CRNA, MS, JD is the director of anesthesia at Palmetto Health Richland Campus in Columbia, South Carolina.  He believes that the lack of reporting could be the answer.  “I believe the numbers, I just don’t believe they’re a fully accurate portrayal of the actual number of malpractice claims or their financial impact.”

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