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August 06, 2003
Medical Malpractice

From Modern Physician (registration required), comes the news that, on the average, less than 40 percent of medical malpractice award money goes to the plaintiff (that's the injured person).

Plaintiffs receive only 38% of the total dollars that flow through the malpractice litigation system, according to a recent study by the Employment Policy Foundation in Washington, D.C.

EPF says the bulk of the of the money goes to plaintiff's lawyers, expert witnesses, claims adjustment and investigating and defending claims.

I guess it's not really a surprise. Medical malpractice suits are no longer about restitution for someone damaged by negligence. They're a business, like anything else.

The only thing I'm wondering is, if they "cap" non-economic awards at $250,000 or $1,000,000 or wherever they wind up capping them, won't that just mean the injured person winds up with even less compensation for their injuries?

Once again I'd like to suggest that someone smarter than me (easy enough) figure out a kind of "tort reform" that involves reforming the system without punishing people who have legitimate claims.

You should be able to sue a physician or a hospital if you go in for surgery and they leave a scalpel in your abdomen. Unless you contracted specially for this ornamentation, they should not only have to remove it, but you should be compensated for the additional lost work time, the extra recuperations time, any complications, and "danger money" for the risk this negligence created.

You should not be able to sue the maker of a household cleanser because you accidentally poured Draino in your coffee and it made you sick. You should not be able to sue someone because you're a moron.

Don't pour Draino in your coffee, okay? If you pour Draino in your coffee, do the sensible thing. Know that you're opening yourself up to endless mockery if you advertise the fact, and keep it between you and your physician or emergency care worker.*

You should be able to sue someone who digs a hole next to the sidewalk on their property and leaves it there to trap unwary pedestrians after dark. That's negligence.

You should not be able to sue because you fell down and hurt yourself when you were burgling someone's home. You should not be able to sue someone because you're a criminal moron.

Common sense. That's what we need for tort reform. A liberal slathering of common sense.

Also, something to control the lawyers, but I really am working today, so I'll have to think about that another time.

* And I say this based upon my experience of having been the kind
of person who, quite inadvertently, poured a technically non-edible
substance into my coffee and drank it. For a week. (In my own defense,
had it been anything like Draino, I'm sure I'd have noticed more quickly.)
Did I sue? No, don't be ridiculous. You should not sue someone
because you're a moron. For what it's worth, nowadays, I drink my
coffee black.

Posted by AnneZook at 04:47 PM


Great point. A healthy dose of common sense would be a good start. Although, in my experience, as a general rule juries do use common sense and reach the right result. There's exceptions to every rule, of course.

Adam Studnicki

Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Studnicki, Jaffe & Woods, PLLC


Posted by: Adam at December 3, 2003 08:21 PM