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Surprising Medical Malpractice Demographics By Wealth, State, And Gender

April 16, 2012

Are poor people more likely to sue doctors for medical malpractice than wealthier people? Are men more likely to file medical malpractice lawsuits than women? Which state had the highest total of medical malpractice payouts in 2011 than any other? Which state had the highest average medical malpractice payout per lawsuit and which one had the lowest? The answers to these questions may be quite surprising in many.

Who is more likely to sue for medical malpractice: rich people or poor people. Contrary to popular perception, the answer is wealthier people. Is that because wealthier people are more motivated to sue their doctor than poor people when things go wrong? Probably not. So why are wealthy people more likely sue their doctors than poorer ones? According to a recent study, two reasons might explain this phenomenon.

First, wealthy people are more likely to have connections to the legal system. As a result, wealthier people have an easier to time obtaining a referral to a competent medical malpractice lawyer than poor people. Second, based on the contingency fee system, the value of a wealthier person's case is often considered higher than a poorer persons case. Part of this may be based on the fact that economic losses are often mathematically greater for wealthier medical malpractice victims than poorer ones. After all, wealthier people generally make more money than poorer people such that their lost wages tend to be greater if they become a victim of medical malpractice. Further, wealthier people are more likely to have access to quality healthcare insurance. This allows wealthier people to more freely receive the medical care they need rather than poorer. In turn, the amount of medical expenses incurred by an alleged victim of medical malpractice is typically greater than that of a poorer victim who is less likely to get the medical care they need--which necessarily brings down their medical expense claim.

Which state had the highest total of medical malpractice payouts in 2011? Not surprising, the answer is New York. The total amount of medical malpractice payouts in New York last year was $677,866,050. That is over double the next nearest state, Pennsylvania, which had $319,710250 in medical malpractice payouts. Interestingly, two of the six highest payout states, California and Florida, actually have caps on damages in medical malpractice cases. Finally, the state with the highest average medical malpractice payout in 2011 was Hawaii at $686,509 per lawsuit. The state with the lowest average medical malpractice payout was Indiana, whose medical malpractice claimants only received an average of $127,0297 per case.

Which gender is more likely to sue for medical malpractice: males or females? The answer is females. In 2011, fifty-eight percent of medical malpractice payouts were for females, while 42% were for males. One reason for this may be that females are more likely to receive medical treatment and, as result, be more likely to be harmed by medical malpractice. This is particularly true with pregnancy related matters.

Sources Used:, 2012 Medical Malpractice Payout Analysis, 2012.

Pub Med Abstract Of , Do Poor People Sue Doctor's More Frequently? Confronting Unconscious Bias And The Role Of Cultural Competency, May 2012.

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