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Number of medical malpractice suits appears to be on the decline

According to a recent report by Public Citizen, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., the number of medical malpractice payouts is on the decline in the U.S. Indeed, data collected from Pennsylvania courts shows a similar decrease in medical malpractice suits compared to 10 years ago.

The decrease in the number of medical malpractice suits in the U.S. is significant because many lawmakers continue to cite the number of these suits and the size of the typical payout as the factors driving the high cost of medical care. These new statistics indicate that medical malpractice suits account for less than one half of one percent of the overall cost of healthcare in the U.S.

In 2012, a total of $3.1 billion was paid to those injured by medical negligence on behalf of doctors in the U.S. This is not only the lowest amount paid since 1998, it is the lowest amount ever when figures are adjusted for inflation.

The findings of the Public Citizen study are limited, however. For example, the figures cited by the group include only payouts made on behalf of doctors, not hospitals. Hospitals are, in fact, often named as parties to medical malpractice suits. Unfortunately, there is no national database available with information regarding malpractice suits against hospitals.

According to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, there were a total of 1,508 medical negligence suits filed in the state in 2012. This marks a significant decrease from the years between 2000 and 2002, when over 2,700 such suits were filed annually on average.

Source: Pennlive.com, “Medical malpractice lawsuits: data shows a decline; Pennsylvania hospitals argue they remain a problem,” David Wenner, August 9, 2013

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