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Medical malpractice claims trending downward, study says

When a person in Pennsylvania is sick or injured, they may be concerned about getting healthy. They want to get back to their normal, day-to-day lives. Having one's life disrupted by an injury or illness is discouraging, but things can be made even worse when a person's physician makes a mistake, causing the patient to suffer a worsened condition. When this happens, the victim may wish to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. But, one study has found that the number of medical malpractice claims may be on the decline.

A study by Bringham and Women's Hospital unearthed some interesting information about medical malpractice lawsuits. According to the study, from 1992 to 2014, the number of medical malpractice claims paid by physicians went down by about 56 percent. Pediatricians saw the highest drop in medical malpractice claims, with these claims decreasing by approximately 76 percent. Cardiologists saw the lowest drop in medical malpractice claims, with these claims decreasing by approximately 13.5 percent.

The study also revealed that the most prevalent reason for filing a medical malpractice claim at approximately 32 percent of all claims was due to misdiagnosis. Surgical errors made up approximately 30 percent of all claims, and errors in connection to treatment made up approximately 24.5 percent. Of all paid medical malpractice claims studied, 32 percent were in regards to the death of the victim.

The study used information from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), which contained a database of paid medical malpractice claims. The NPDB does include settlements made on behalf of physicians in medical malpractice cases. However, it does not include settlements made on behalf of medical facilities or claims that were not settled or paid out.

While it may seem like payouts on medical malpractice claims are going down nationally, this should not discourage people in Pennsylvania from filing a claim, when they believe they have a solid case of medical malpractice. Even if it ends in a settlement, it could allow victims of medical malpractice to obtain the funds needed to take care of the damages they suffered due to the medical error. Moreover, it sends a message to physicians that such mistakes will not be tolerated.

Source: UPI, "Study finds decline in medical malpractice claims," Any Wallace, March 27, 2017

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