It is easy for a Chicago medical malpractice attorney to get dismayed by the fact that so many community members get their basic information about Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits from those on one side of the tort reform debate. Instead of honest discussion or information sharing about what these lawsuits do and how they work, many residents instead get skewed information from those providing the information to gain support for a very specific political agenda. There is simply no way to trust the figures provided by tort reform groups-their data is inaccurate, distorted, or presented misleadingly. Yet, those inaccuracies are often permeated throughout the public, unfairly influencing the public opinion on tort reform issues.
Each Chicago birth injury lawyer at our firm genuinely believes that if the public actually had accurate information about the justice system they would be able to see much more clearly how those in the insurance industry and medical lobby are using the debate to advance ideas for their personal interests-not the overall good of the community. Along the same lines, the “Pop Tort” blog-published by the Center for Justice and Democracy-had a post this week entitled “Take Our Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Quiz!” The short three-page quiz is a handy way to show how the perceptions about the civil justice system are often wildly inaccurate, usually because of misinformation propagated by tort reformers.
Question One asks what percentage of case filing are actual medical malpractice suits. Considering the attention always focused on these particular cases (of which birth injury lawsuits are a subset), many believe that medical malpractice cases constitute a large chunk. The truth is that medical malpractice cases constitute less than 2% of all new civil cases. When looking just at tort suits the numbers don’t rise that much higher as medical malpractice cases are less than 8% of all tort cases. In other words, most suits are about other incidents, but medical malpractice cases always get the attention.
Question Two speaks to the trends with these lawsuits. Listening to tort reformers one might get the impression that these cases continue to rise in “epidemic-like” proportions. What is the truth? Over the last decade medical malpractice lawsuits have actually dropped by nearly 20%. In some states the filings have decreased dramatically, down 42% in some areas. There is no epidemic of medical malpractice suits. On the contrary, many victims are finding it harder and harder to get access to the system when they are hurt in this way.
Finally, Question Three asks what percentage of an award does a hospital or insurer usually pay following a large jury verdict. The answer often, is only 5-10%. This is a tricky issue that works to further confuse the public. One of the main ways that community members hear about medical malpractice is following large jury verdicts. However, in many cases, even after the jury award, the involved doctors and insurers rarely paid anything close to the actual amount. In the largest cases the victims actually receive anywhere from 5-10% of the award. The public is rarely informed of that, so they often go on believing that the stated jury amount is handed over instantly to the victims. Not so.
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