Yesterday, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health released a study concerning an analysis of medical malpractice claims resolved by insurance carriers to determine what claims were supposedly frivolous and what claims had merit. The results are in and what a shock! The results showed that politicians make allegations about too many frivolous lawsuits without any factual support. In fact, according to the author of the study,
Some people have suggested that the system is overrun with frivolous litigation. Our findings don’t support that,” said study author David M. Studdert, an associate professor of health policy and management at Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston. “The system is doing a reasonable job of channeling compensation to the right sorts of claims.
The study released in today’s New England Journal of Medicine suggests that the costs associated with presenting and defending malpractice claims as well as the length of time to resolve medical malpractice claims present problems:
One [problem] is the amount of time — an average of five years — from the time of injury to the time a claim is resolved. “That’s a long time for people to be sitting around living in uncertainty,” Studdert said.
Another problem were the costs of litigating, which averaged $52,521 per claim, or 54 percent of the compensation paid to plaintiffs.
Litigation costs involve hiring experts, filing fees, deposition expenses and other similar expenses in order to meet the plaintiff’s burden of proof. Alternatives to litigation could minimize these expenses and shorten the process to adjudicate claims. Finally, a study shows that the real problem with medical malpractice relates not to supposed frivolous claims but rather to the time-consuming and expensive process to present claims. Mediation and arbitration alternatives with relaxed rules of evidence could perhaps play an important role in reforming malpractice laws in our country. However, in my opinion, this study proves once again that mandatory limits on compensation to an injured plaintiff are not the answer.