Myths and Realities about Malpractice Law in the United States

Medical malpractice claims can be tricky situations to navigate for all parties involved. Between doctors and their patients, there is a great deal of tension on both sides as they grip with the consequences of the harm that the patient has suffered. Between legislators, the courts, and the people who live with their legal decisions, there is a struggle to strike a balance between awarding harmed patients, protecting good doctors, and maintaining stability within the healthcare industry at large.

With so many different factors at play, it can often be difficult to differentiate the myths from the realities. Here are some of the most common myths that exist regarding medical malpractice laws in the United States today:

Myth: Most plaintiffs are just looking for a jackpot

Reality: While it is true that there are some plaintiffs that sue in bad faith to benefit from a legal windfall in a frivolous suit, studies have shown that the reality of the matter is that, on average, patients are under-compensated for the harm that they face from instances of real medical malpractice. Studies have found that despite the 250,000 people who die annually due to medical malpractice, less than 2% of those who suffer from real cases of medical malpractice ever file a lawsuit against their doctors.

Myth: Physicians are brought to financial ruin by medical malpractice lawsuits

Reality: Healthcare professionals rarely pay out of pocket for any cases which are brought against them. While there is a pervasive myth that malpractice law is nothing but a bunch of greedy plaintiffs seeking to destroy the life work of doctors for profit, in reality, of the medical malpractice cases that are brought to trial and result in a guilty verdict, insurance companies are usually the ones that pay out compensations. Doctors would usually only end up paying out of pocket in such cases if they were being tried criminally under circumstances which are beyond their hospital’s insurance policies, which is something that is exceedingly rare.

Myth: Medical malpractice claims cause industry-wide increases in premiums

Reality: This is a myth that has developed slowly over the past few decades. As with many things, when people’s economic situations become more difficult, they often look for erroneous culprits to blame. While it is true that insurance premiums throughout the industry have risen dramatically in recent years, these increases have been shown to be more closely linked to standard economic cycles, federal healthcare policy, and tax regulations rather than an inundation of medical malpractice payouts.

Ultimately, medical malpractice is a complicated situation that attempts to navigate morality, the law, and simply unfortunate circumstances. Considering the various different legislative frameworks and the general confusion that exists in the United States about what does and does not constitute medical malpractice, it is important to separate the facts from the fiction in a world where misinformation now travels faster than the truth. While there are many more nuances about medical malpractice cases that are important to know, especially if you are involved in such a legal case, being familiar with the myths listed above is a step in the right direction.