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The Lies Told by Tort Reform Supporters: Are Patients Taking Advantage of the System?

January 20, 2016  ·  By HM&M

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In Illinois, and all across the country, people are being told that our justice system is broken and that patients are frivolously suing (and winning against) innocent doctors, nurses, and hospitals. But, like many of the stories spun by tort reformers, such claims are untrue. If anything, evidence shows that not only is our system not “broken,” only a small percentage of injured patients ever actually pursue a medical malpractice claim.

Statistics Hidden and Ignored by Tort Reform Supporters

According to recent information, anywhere from 210,000 and 440,000 patients walk into a hospital in search of care and never walk out. Determined by the Journal of Patient Safety, this information places medical errors third on the list of leading causes of death in America, just behind heart disease and cancer. Even more suffer a nonfatal injury that somehow alters their way of life—as many as 600,000 annually, according to Harvard researchers. And yet there are only about 85,000 medical malpractice lawsuits filed each year.

The Myth of Frivolous Litigation

In their attempts to create the image of a broken system, tort reformers describe a legal environment in which an inordinate number of frivolous cases are won or settled. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health paints a very different picture—one in which legitimate claims are being paid and illegitimate ones are being thrown out.

Of the cases examined, study authors found that 63 percent involved an injury caused by medical error, 80 percent of which involved significant disability or death. Essentially, most of the cases for which compensation was received involved severe injury or death caused by medical error, while very few cases for which no significant injury or death from medical error occurred ever received compensation.

Evidence also suggests that the majority of winning death or injury cases end up settling for much less than tort reformers would like to let on. In fact, after adjusting for inflation, Public Citizen’s analysis of the National Practitioner Data Bank determined that the average payment for a medical malpractice verdict has declined by eight percent since 1991.

Winning a Medical Malpractice Case Far from “Easy”

Tort reformers conveniently use their faulty information to depict a system in which it is easy to win a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, evidence and the experience of any medical malpractice attorney tells a very different story. Anywhere from 90 to 97 percent of all substantiated cases end up settling before going to trial. Of the cases that do go to trial, only 50 percent put in front of a judge, and just 26.3 percent placed in front of a jury end up ruling in favor of the plaintiff.

To suggest that our judges and jurors are somehow too incompetent to tell the difference between a frivolous claim and a claim for which real injuries and errors exist is both misleading and preposterous. Claiming that our system is somehow broken and that doctors and hospitals are being unjustly preyed upon by money hungry, unlawful citizens only adds insult to injury.

These individuals and families have had to grieve and suffer. They have needed additional and sometimes lifelong treatment for their injuries. Many have medical bills that have gone unpaid for years. It is time for tort reformers to stop painting injured patients as the villains. It is beyond time for patients to hear that they have the right to seek compensation and that, by doing so, they may even help reduce the risk of someone else from being injured in the future. It is time for justice.

We are dedicated to serving victims and protecting their rights. With more than 75 years of combined knowledge and experience, we aggressively pursue compensation for the injuries and deaths caused by medical error and negligence. To learn more about how we may be able to assist with your case, schedule a free initial consultation with our Chicago personal injury attorneys.


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