Medical malpractice suits today can result in multi-million-dollar settlements, and a practicing physician can pay $100,000 or more annually for malpractice insurance. Some complain that lawyers and plaintiffs are overcompensated by exorbitant judgments that add to the rising cost of health care. But there has been very little evidence to show whether these arguments are true. In this timely work, six experts in health policy, law, and medicine study nearly 200 malpractice claims to show that, contrary to popular perceptions, victims of malpractice are not overcompensated and our legal system for dealing with malpractice claims is not defective. The authors survey claims filed in Florida between 1986 and 1989 by people who suffered permanent injury or death during birth or during treatment in an emergency room. How often did illegitimate claims result in financial awards? What was the relation between the injury and the amount the patient lost economically? How much did the plaintiffs actually recover? How did the claimants choose their lawyers and what kind of relationship did they have?
Contrary to common perceptions, in the majority of cases the claims were merited, and the authors found that claimants were on average substantially undercompensated--only about one-fifth of plaintiffs recovered more than their economic loss caused by injury or death. The evidence in this book suggests that placing dollar limits on malpractice cases is unjustified and that our tort system is not so faulty after all. xviii, 258 p., 30 tables