Malpractice claims have long been a serious problem for the medical industry. The public and litigious legal professionals have long considered physicians and their employers lucrative targets when serious health events occur. Despite the fact that almost half of all malpractice claims are dismissed, and only about 5 percent result in a trial judgment, many people are hoping for a big payout at the expense of a medical professional. However, where you practice can put you at a higher risk of being sued.
If you are about to establish your practice or take up a new position, it is important to understand the legal environment of your new state. Almost half of all states have passed laws that limit compensation for economic or non-economic damages—i.e. pain and suffering—which has helped curtail frivolous lawsuits. State laws may also impose a strict statute of limitations on any malpractice actions. These laws may also require certain legal proof or filing stipulations before a claim can be made.
States with the highest medical malpractice lawsuits per capita:
- Louisiana—With only about 12,300 practicing physicians in the state, Louisiana is first in the nation with 44.1 malpractice suits per 100,000 residents. Although state law caps malpractice compensation at $500,000, it doesn’t limit the amount for future medical care. The total payout in 2015 for the state was $59 million, a 0.73 percent decline over the previous year.
- Oklahoma—Oklahoma had 36.3 malpractice suits per 100,000 residents and paid out $32.5 million in 2015, a 69 percent decrease over the amount paid out in 2015. Non-economic damages is limited to $300,000, while punitive damages are capped at $100,000. The statute of limitations is two years following the injurious act, unless involving a minor, in which case the plaintiff has seven years to file.
- Delaware—This state ranks third in the nation with 35.2 lawsuits per 100,000 residents. In 2015, the state’s providers paid almost $11.6 million in malpractice judgments and settlements, a 16 percent decrease over the prior year. Delaware does not have any legal restrictions on the size of a payout, but it mandates filing a claim within two years from the time the injury occurred.
- Wyoming—With 34 malpractice claims per 100,000 residents, Wyoming is the fourth most litigious state in the union. In 2015, $7.5 million was paid out by Wyoming providers, a 4.28 decrease from 2014. The state has no caps on malpractice compensation, and it does not impose any onerous requirements on plaintiffs who wish to file.
- Tennessee—This state had 33 malpractice lawsuits per 100,000 residents in 2015 that yielded $45.9 million in compensation for patients. This was a 20.6 percent decline over the previous year. Tennessee has capped the non-economic compensation for malpractice lawsuits at $750,000, unless there is a catastrophic injury, when it is raised to $1 million. There is no state limit on economic damages. Malpractice actions must be filed within one year plus 120 days, but notice must be given to the defendant within one year.
Article written by: Robert Moghim, M.D.– CEO Moghim Medical Consulting Inc.