When it comes to the problems in our healthcare system today—be it the increase in medical malpractice liability coverage costs for physicians, or the deterioration of the system itself—the blame often falls to “runaway juries,” outrageous award amounts for non-economic damages, and an overall increase in both the frequency and size of medical malpractice claim awards. To examine these theories, Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) commissioned a report in 2005. The information uncovered might surprise you.
Frequency of Civil Litigation Case Filings Substantially Lower
One of the main justifications in the argument for tort reform, as used by its supporters, is that malpractice lawsuits against physicians are more frequent today than they were several years ago. And, as a result, physicians are facing substantial increases in their liability insurance premiums. While the latter certainly proves to be true, the ISBA report indicates that Illinois doctors are actually being sued less.
Using data from the Cook County Jury Verdict Reporter, the ISBA report compared the number of malpractice case filings for Cook and DuPage counties from 1994 to 2004. Although fluctuations from year to year were noted, overall findings determined that Cook County experienced eight litigation filings per 100 treating physicians in 1996 and 8.5 filings in 2003. Likewise, DuPage County claims remained relatively steady, with 1.8 filings per 100 physicians in 1996 and 2.4 in 2003.
However, not all filings translate into actual payments (i.e. cases being dropped before the trial takes place), and even non-successful litigation filings generate costs for malpractice insurance companies. Thus, the ISBA report dug even deeper into the litigation information, looking to determine what (if any) any impact jury awards may have had on the increased cost of malpractice insurance premiums.
Impact of Jury Awards Found to be Negligible
According to the ISBA-commissioned study, jury awards (both their frequency and size) are negligible factors on the increase of malpractice insurance rates. In fact, the frequency of actual trials in Cook County was exactly the same – five per 100 treating physicians – in both 1996 and 2001, and DuPage County actually had a slight decrease, going from three trials per 100 treating physicians in 1996 to just two in 2001.
Moreover, claims regarding “over-inflated” jury award amounts were found to be largely unsubstantiated. In fact, after adjusting for awards that were either overthrown by a judge or appellate court or had been settled in a high-low agreement prior to a final verdict, the mean average for award amounts decreased, going from $3,461,571 for DuPage and Cook Counties to $1,465,609).
An analysis of Madison and St. Clair Counties only further disproved the claims about alleged “runaway juries” that excessively award over-inflated amounts to plaintiffs. There, over a 14-year period, only 11 cases received jury awards favoring the plaintiffs. In those, only two cases exceeded an award of $1 million, and one other approached that amount, coming to a final total of $900,000.
The claim that placing cap amounts on non-economic awards could reduce costs proved to be a dead-end as well. In DuPage and Cook Counties, only 10 out of 30 jury verdict cases received a pain and suffering award that exceeded the proposed cap of $500,000. Of those, five were settled for less than the cap adjustment by a judge or appellate court, or during the settlement process. Out of the remaining five cases, only one would have received the substantial decrease of $2 million. Three would have been reduced by a total of $500,000, and one would have been reduced by $70,000.
Tort Reform and Your Rights
Tort reform is about one thing, and one thing only: making the rich richer. Each individual doctor may or may not have a direct involvement in tort reform movement, but there are plenty of others with a vested interest—overseeing investors, insurance companies, politicians, even hospitals and other health care organizations. They all want to protect their bottom line, and they do not care if your life, your well-being, your health are the price.
Do not be fooled: you have a right to seek fair and just compensation when you or someone you love is injured or killed by a medical mistake. When your life has been altered, and you have medical payments, loss of life, or loss of income, the responsibility of that loss should revert to the persons or institutions responsible for that loss in the first place.
[[title]] can help you in your pursuit. We believe that you can bring a lawsuit against a doctor, hospital, or another provider without being against the system as a whole and that doing so increases personal accountability for negligent providers. Gain the comprehensive, aggressive, and experienced representation you deserve. Schedule your free initial consultation with a skilled and resourceful Chicago, Illinois medical malpractice attorney by calling [[phone]] today.
“Medical Malpractice and the Tort System in Illinois,” Illinois State Bar Association Commissioned Report