Lawsuit lottery. Jackpot Justice. Runaway juries who award astronomical verdicts to the clients of ambulance chasing lawyers who have unfairly (and frivolously) sued a good doctor over a bad (and unavoidable) result. This is the narrative that the American Medical Association, in conjunction with conservative political messaging, has convinced the American public to be true. Particularly in a struggling economy, malpractice lawyer and their clients are demonized as primary drivers behind the rising cost of health care. The facts, though, undermine what sounds like a good story.
The cost of the entire medical liability system–which means payments, awards, litigation costs, attorney fees, expert witnesses, etc.–is less than six tenths of one percentof the overall cost of health care in this county. So much for medical malpractice as a driver of escalating health care costs.
The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit citizens™ advocacy group Public Citizen published an extensive review of the National Practitioner Data Bank data. Among the organization™s findings was that health care spending rose 90 percent between 2000 and 2010 while medical malpractice payments decreased almost 12 percent. So actual payments to victims of malpractice are seeing less and less compensation.
In spite of this data that malpractice costs are historically low while actual instances of malpractice continue to increase, doctors are winning more than half of cases that independent experts conclude they should lose and nearly one hundred percent of cases where the independents experts believe there is no liability.
The net effect is that doctors are shielded from responsibility for their ever-increasing rate of negligence by a pool of potential jurors seek to punish the innocent victim. So who are the real winners of the so-called “lawsuit lottery”?