Philip Peters, Jr., from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, says that juries tend to believe doctors more than plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases—contrary to popular belief in the medical communities that juries usually favor plaintiffs.
He says he found that the majority of malpractice suits end in defense verdicts and that the cases with the weakest evidence are usually the ones that go to trial—since cases where there is solid evidence are usually settled beforehand.
He conducted his research to test the assumption that juries did not have the capacity to fairly assess medical malpractice claims. His reports will be published in the Michigan Law Review this May.
Peters examined numerous data, including 8,231 medical malpractice lawsuits filed in New Jersey from 1977-1992 against doctors insured by the now-defunct Medical Inter-Insurance Exchange. Results showed that a plaintiff was more likely to get a favorable verdict if there was a stronger evidence of negligence.
According to Peters, however, juries had a tendency to defer to doctors and were likely to rule in favor of the defendant in cases where the plaintiff’s evidence was weak. He also said jurors occasionally might find doctors credible because of their social status or the fact that they have better attorneys and witnesses. He also said that jurors might be skeptical about a patient that would sue their doctor.
Peters also did conclude, however, that jurors in medical malpractice claims are not incompetent and that favoritism and randomness were not factors affecting the outcome of these cases.
National Medical Malpractice Statistics
1. Fewer than one-half of 1% of the nation’s doctors face any serious state sanctions each year. 2,696 total serious disciplinary actions a year, the number state medical boards took in 1999, is a pittance compared to the volume of injury and death of patients caused by negligence of doctors. A recent study by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that as many as 98,000 patients may be killed each year in hospitals alone as a result of medical errors. Earlier studies also found that this was a serious national problem.
2. Harvard researchers found that 1% of a representative sample of patients treated in New York state hospitals in 1984 were injured, and one-quarter of those died, because of medical negligence. Nationwide, that would have translated into 234,000 injuries and 80,000 deaths in 1988 from negligence in American hospitals. Most of this involves physicians. There is no clear evidence that there has been significant improvement since then.
3. A similar study conducted in California in 1974 found that 0.8% of hospital patients had either been injured by negligence in the hospital or had been hospitalized because of negligent care. Extrapolation of those findings would have yielded an estimate of 249,000 injuries and deaths from negligent medical practice in 1988.
4. In 1976 the HEW Malpractice Commission estimated similarly that one-half of 1% of all patients entering hospitals are injured there due to negligence. That estimate would have indicated 156,000 injuries and deaths resulting from doctor negligence in 1988.
5. Expanding these estimates to include general medical practice outside of a hospital, the potential abuse by physicians is even greater. An in-depth interview with 53 family physicians revealed that 47% of the doctors recalled a case in which the patient died due to physician error. Only four of the total reported errors led to malpractice suits, and none of these errors resulted in an action by a peer review organization.
If you have been injured because of medical malpractice in the Maryland or Washington D.C. areas, please contact Lebowitz and Mzhen for your free consultation. We are a personal injury law firm that has successfully helped many clients obtain recovery for their injuries due to malpractice by members of the medical community. Because of the nature of medical malpractice claims, it is important that you retain the services of attorneys who are skilled and successful trial attorneys–in the event that your case reaches the courtroom.
Malpractice Juries Tend to Side More With Doctors, Researcher Finds, Law.com, April 26, 2007
National Medical Malpractice Statistics, Medical Malpractice.com
Related Web Resource:
Quick Facts on Medical Malpractice Issues, Public Citizen