Medical malpractice claims are a significant cost in the medical industry. In the past 3 years, tens of thousands of clients have come to LegalMatch.com looking for medical malpractice attorneys. The top ten states for these claims were:
|4. New York|
|6. North Carolina|
Five of the above states appear in the top ten list of states with the highest premiums as of 2005, according to a University of Michigan study. In order from highest to lowest, they are:
|5. New York|
Ideally, premiums reflect risk. Are premiums in the above states higher than normal due to the larger number of malpractice cases? If a state like California does not even make the University of Michigan’s list, probably not.
Premiums may have more to do with how much rather than how often. Various states have different medical malpractice laws. New York, for instance, does not cap damages in a medical malpractice case. California, on the other hand, caps non-economic damages at $250,000 dollars. If state laws expose doctors and medical organizations to heavier losses, then insurance companies may be inclined to charge higher premiums.
Higher premium costs affect the medical industry by discouraging doctors from taking jobs that might make less money, such as obstetricians. It may also prevent doctors from working in certain areas or with certain hospitals. And as usual, these high premiums translate into higher fees for customers of the dysfunctional American health care system.
As professionals with a duty to care for the health of their patients, doctors should not have to make decisions based on their risk of exposure to lawsuits. Patients, in turn, should not have to fork out more money for care to cover doctor’s outrageous premiums. Although patients and people injured by negligent medical work should be compensated, how many medical malpractice damages are inflated by high attorney fees, or motivated entirely by the prospect of a big payout from a rich insurance company? Some states allow for attorney fees as high as 50% of the damages award. All the costs of these legal battles get passed onto patients and health insurance customers. It seems the big winners in this game are the insurance companies and, as usual, the lawyers. When the real issue is between a doctor and their patient, is it fair that we are driving the economics of this relationship?