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Study: Half of medical malpractice claims are dropped

A new study has found that the majority of medical malpractice claims that are filed in New Haven and across the country are ultimately dropped by the plaintiffs before ever making it to court. Researchers say that most of the plaintiffs who abandon their claims decide to do so when they gain information during the normal course of their lawsuit preparation and, during that process, learn that their case may not be strong enough to succeed in court.

In the study, which was published in the medical journal Health Affairs, researchers found that only about 15 percent of all medical malpractice claims are decided in court. An additional 25 percent of claims are settled. Overall, about 70 percent of all medical liability claims that are brought against doctors in the United States every year will ultimately fail, researchers say.

So what can be done to prevent this high rate of abandoned and failed claims, and to ensure that patients who suffer serious harm as a result of a doctor's negligence receive the compensation they deserve? According to the lead researcher behind the study, both hospital and insurance companies need to adopt new procedures that encourage the parties on both sides of a malpractice suit to exchange information more quickly and efficiently.

By being more open and candid in their discussion of the lawsuit and the events leading up to it, he says, cases will be able to be resolved much more quickly. This will benefit both the defendant, who will incur fewer costs, and the plaintiff, who will receive the damages he or she needs to recover much faster.

Source: Triangle Business Journal, "What really happens to most medical malpractice lawsuits?" Jason deBruyn, Oct. 19, 2012

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