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Fewer Trials, Fewer Victories is the Trend in Medical Malpractice Cases

U.S. Department of Justice

The U.S. Department of Justice has released information comparing trial results of various types of personal injury cases from the nation's 75 most populous counties.  This information compares data from 1996, 2001, and 2005.  In 1996, there were 10,278 total trials of personal injury cases in these counties.  By 2001, this number had dropped to 7,948.  By 2005, the number again dropped to 7,038.  This represents a total decrease of 31.5%.

For medical malpractice cases in these counties, in 1996 there were 1,201.  In 2001, there were 1,156.  By 2005, there were 1,219.  This represents a total change of only 1.5%.  In terms of cases won by the plaintiff or patient in medical malpractice cases; in 1996 the plaintiff won 23.3% of the medical malpractice cases that were tried; in 2001 the plaintiff won 26.8% of the trials and by 2005, the plaintiff won only 19.4% of the trials.  This represents  a 27.7% decrease in medical malpractice trials won by the plaintiff at trial between the period 2001 and 2005.

These statistics demonstrate that fewer medical malpractice cases are being filed and are resulting in fewer cases won by the plaintiff.  This information is directly contrary to the propaganda which the insurance industry has used to get lawmakers and physicians to lobby in favor of further tort reforms.  The truth is that insurance companies want to increase their profit margins even more on the backs of the injured and those who treat them.

These statistics also reveal that fewer and fewer attorneys will handle medical malpractice cases.  They are one of the most expensive and challenging areas of the law.  With caps on damages, most attorneys do not view them as economically feasible to handle.  The few attorneys who do handle them screen their cases very carefully.  They understand that the odds are stacked against their clients.  No one wants healthcare to be bad.  But, a system without accountability for errors will only lead to a deterioration of the quality of care received by patients.