Reliable statistics on medical malpractice issues can be difficult to find: they depend largely on insurance company reporting requirements, which can vary widely between states. The U.S. Department of Justice conducted the most recent large-scale study of the outcomes of medical malpractice claims in 2007. It looked at medical malpractice insurance claims—every state requires all medical providers to carry medical malpractice insurance—over a four-year period in seven states with extensive reporting requirements: Florida, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada and Texas. While not necessarily representative of the sort of results we see in Maryland and Washington, D.C., the statistics compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics can nonetheless provide a good starting point for talking about malpractice claim settlements and verdicts.
For starters, not every medical malpractice claim results in a payout to the injured victim. In fact, on average only about a quarter of medical malpractice claims result in a settlement or verdict that favors the plaintiff. There are many reasons for this:
- Not all bad medical outcomes result from bad medical practice or procedure
- Malpractice cases are notoriously difficult to prove
- Many doctors adhere to a sort of ‘code of silence’ to protect themselves and their colleagues from malpractice lawsuits
Of those cases that did result in malpractice insurance payments, on average fewer than ten percent ended in payments to the victim of one million dollars or more. Median payments for ‘major or grave’ permanent injuries ranged from about $280,000 to $350,000, while median payments for temporary or emotional injuries ranged from $5,000 to $79,000. Claims against physicians and surgeons resulted in higher payments than claims against other medical providers, like nurses, nursing homes, or therapists.
The upshot is that there really is no “usual” when it comes to medical malpractice claim payouts. How much you receive to compensate you for your injuries depends on the extent and severity of your injuries, whether the medical provider who injured you was incompetent or merely unlucky, and the skill and experience of your medical malpractice lawyer.
Dr. Michael M. Wilson is an attorney and a physician who earned his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his legal and medical degrees from Georgetown University. He has focused in the area of medical malpractice for more than three decades and secured more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients throughout the country. He is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and New York as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is listed in America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.