Oftentimes in certain media outlets, you hear talking heads rail about how the "runaway tort system" is wrecking both the medical and insurance fields. The only problem is, it's not true.
Forbes magazine (yes, that Forbes magazine) ran a story yesterday about how these two fallacies have been completely debunked. It had long been alleged that concern over tort liability caused doctors to practice "defensive medicine," which led to unnecessary procedures being ordered and performed that led to increased costs. However . . . the New England Journal of Medicine performed an in depth study into the issue and found that simply was not true. An appointed board of physicians and experts studied the systems in three states that had comprehensive tort reform, and found absolutely no difference in the way health care providers practiced medicine.
Forbes also found that the allegation that malpractice insurance was spiraling out of control and forcing doctors out of practice was simply . . . not true either. Even in states that have instituted tort reform, there has been no measurable decline in malpractice premiums. It may come as a news flash to the medical field, but insurance companies hardly ever pass on reductions in damage awards to its insureds in the form of reduced premiums. Why would they? Their bottom lines would be harmed and you would benefit. You really shouldn't be surprised by this.
Recent studies by the Journal of Patient Safety found in a recent study that up to 440,000 people are killed (not just injured, but killed) by medical errors every year. That is the size of greater metropolitan Little Rock. EVERY YEAR. However, only 1% of claims are ever pursued. Why? There are many reasons:
1. The cost to pursue a medical malpractice actions is astronomical. Experts must be hired in every medical malpractice case to prove the standard of care and causation. Oftentimes, two experts or more are required. It is not rare to see the expenses (not attorney's fees, but out of pocket expenses that your attorney pays to finance your case) exceed $100,000.00. Therefore, only the most egregious cases make financial sense in pursuing. If you are only seriously injured and not killed or maimed, your case may not be viable.
2. Arkansas doctors will never EVER testify against another Arkansas doctor. The experts that I mentioned above have to come from out of state. That adds another layer of cost and expense and gives the defense a bullet to shoot at you since all of their experts are invariably local and respected in the community.
3. The defense wins 93% of cases tried to a jury. Doctors are revered in most communities. They are seen as heroes, despite the facts and studies listed above. Most jurors are inundated with propaganda regarding tort reform and medical negligence cases. They don't want to think they are anything but completely safe when they visit their doctor. It is one of the greatest challenges lawyers face when trying a medical negligence case.
4. Finally, and most shockingly, oftentimes steps are taken so that families never leave the hospital or clinic knowing what has happened to their loved one or that an error was made. This is a common occurrence.
Please read the attached article from Forbes. Also know that at Gibson Law Firm, we have experience in assisting people harmed due to medical negligence. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured as a result of a medical error, please contact us today. In addition, please contact your legislators and community leaders to voice your opposition to any kinds of tort reform that are being considered. It is merely an attempt at a giveaway and grant of immunity to big business and insurance companies. That's not in line with Arkansas values.