As the name suggest, a chief executive officer or CEO is the leader of their company. Part of this leadership includes the obligation communicate on behalf of the company in a truthful and responsible manner. Unfortunately, the CEO of a major a medical malpractice insurance company never received this memo when he was asked to comment on the results of a recent medical malpractice study.
As published in the online medical journal, BMJ Open, a new medical study shows the highest rate of medical malpractice claims against primary care physicians is for misdiagnosis, followed by medication errors. The study found that of all medical malpractice claims filed in the United States, only 33% of claimants received compensation. When the CEO of medical malpractice insurer, The Doctors Company, was asked to comment on the study, he said "nobody benefits but lawyers" from medical malpractice lawsuits.
It is true that most victims of medical do not recovery a penny. Even when they retain a medical malpractice attorney, no money is paid out 66% of the time according to the study--meaning the lawyer recovers nothing either. Of course, the real tragedy behind this statistic is the victim--not the lawyer. When the lawyer receives no benefit from the case, the lawyer can move to the next case hoping to at least recoup the expenses they lost from the last case. There is no second chance for the medical malpractice victim who recovered nothing.
In those cases where there is a medical malpractice payout, the patient must recover a far greater percentage of the settlement or judgment than the lawyer after expenses. In Illinois and most states, the medical malpractice lawyer's fee is limited to 33% or less. The client is entitled to 66% (or more) of the settlement or judgment minus expenses that were incurred to prosecute the case. These expenses include paying expert witness physicians, many of whom charge $1,000 or more an hour for, along with other litigation costs. Although the expenses needed to prosecute a medical malpractice case can reach six figures, as a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer, I have never resolved a single medical malpractice case where my client receive less than my fee--even when this fee was combined with the reimbursement of litigation expenses. Although I believe I am better than the average medical malpractice lawyer, I doubt my track record is dramatically different from most lawyers regarding the percentage of their fee relative to their client's net recovery.
Most disturbing of all, Dr. Anderson's remark, that only lawyers benefit from malpractice cases, fails to account for the patients who have received much needed compensation after become severely disabled from medical malpractice. Babies who have suffered profound brain damage from a mismanaged labor and delivery require a lifetime of expensive healthcare, which can easily exceed ten million. The same is often true of patients who have become quadriparetic because of a surgical mistake. Similarly, families whose primary breadwinning parent died because of a preventable medical error could seldom make ends meet without compensation for lost wages that would have been earned for the family by the decedent. The families in these and other cases would strongly dispute Dr. Anderson punch that nobody but lawyers benefit from medical malpractice cases.
Our legal system certainly has its flaws. This includes medical malpractice cases that are filed without merit. However, to suggest medical malpractice victims never benefit from medical malpractice lawsuits--that only lawyers benefit--is gross innacurate. More disturbingly, these types of deliberate misstatements are designed for a reason: they are designed to deceive future jurors into believing a medical malpractice victim will never benefit even if a verdict is returned in their favor--having been falsely conditioned it all goes to lawyer. If the medical malpractice insurance industry can convince future jurors of this fallacy, nobody benefits but the insurance company executives.
CBS News, Most Common Medical Malpractice Claims For Missed Cancer, Heart Attacks, July 19, 2013.