Medical Malpractice Claims Continue to Rise – Will the Pandemic Slow This Trend?
Average costs of medical malpractice claims have steadily risen throughout the years. With the uncertainty of COVID-19, it’s unclear what effects this pandemic will have on medical malpractice claims, and subsequently medical malpractice insurance.
Between the years 1998 to 2001, incurred losses for medical malpractice insurance agencies rose by 18.7%. This number is even higher in states without caps on non-economic damages. For example, in those same years from 1998 to 2001, Mississippi saw an increase of 142.1%. These outlier verdicts can be devastating to smaller medical malpractice insurers.
Impacts of The Pandemic
Healthcare providers have been put in the spotlight during the pandemic, often being referred to as the heroes of this uncertain time. The medical community as a whole has made leaps and bounds in patient safety in the midst of the pandemic. This new outlook on physicians could result in smaller plaintiff awards, especially with COVID-19 related cases. Despite this, long-term trends suggest a continual increase in outlier verdicts.
Despite a decreasing frequency of claims, the average cost of a medical malpractice claim has continued to increase. Healthcare consolidation is at least partially responsible for the increasing trend in medical malpractice claims. With fewer healthcare options from smaller providers, large conglomerate corporations are setting high policy limits, making them an easy target for jurors.
In addition to healthcare consolidation, monetary desensitization and batch claims play a role in this trend. A $10 million lawsuit no longer holds the ‘awe’ that it used to. To put it in perspective, the average cost to buy a car in 1970 was around $3,500. In the year 2021? Try $40,500. Delving even deeper, if you bought a car in 1970 for $40,500, that car today is worth $274,500. That’s an inflation rate of 577.9%. The steady increase in the cost of practically every product has desensitized consumers to numbers that were once thought of as outrageous.
Batch claims are on the rise due to the connectivity that social media platforms provide. Social media has given a voice to everyone who has access to the internet. We are more connected than ever, but social media has a downside in the malpractice arena. A post-declaring doctor so-and-so botched a procedure now paves the way for others to realize their procedures were botched too. Attorneys then group them into a batch claim, which was previously an unusual occurrence.
Call to Action
The disturbing increasing trend in medical malpractice claims hints at a cresting point before a possible crash. In order to prevent this, it is imperative that jurors begin looking at each case based on facts instead of the pockets of insurance companies. Batch claims will need to decrease, and caps should be put in place in all states, not just some.
If action is not taken, outlier verdicts, massive plaintiff awards, and the disappearance of small insurance companies will become common practice.