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New study on medical malpractice claims

Medical malpractice claims in the U.S. are often dismissed or decided in favor of the doctor. But for most of these cases, the decisions are not reached quickly. In New York, doctors have a right to object to settlement offers, which is one reason why many of these claims go to trial.

A study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine reviewed more than 10,000 malpractice claims against doctors in the United States concluded between 2002 and 2005. Out of all these claims, the researchers discovered that 55 percent resulted in an actual lawsuit. In the lawsuits that went to litigation, the courts dismissed over half. Most of the remaining cases were resolved before reaching the jury, with fewer than five percent resolved by trial verdicts.

Of the lawsuits that actually reached a trial and verdict, doctors received a favorable outcome 80 percent of the time.

The study also examined the general timelines of these lawsuits and discovered that the dismissed cases took more than 20 months to resolve and verdict cases took over 28 months. The small five percent of trial verdicts lasted an average of 39 months if the doctors prevailed and 44 months if the patient won.

But even if these timelines look lengthy, medical malpractice claims are still necessary. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals can cause serious injury to patients through any number of medical errors and negligence. Medical malpractice claims provide compensation for injured patients and their families.

In all medical malpractice cases, it is essential to determine whether the injury resulted from a deviation from the accepted standard of care. A review of medical records by an independent and qualified medical expert is one way to make this determination and an experienced attorney in this field can help navigate through the legal issues.

Source: Reuters, "Docs win most malpractice suits, but road is long," Amy Norton, May 23, 2012

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