A new look at medical malpractice claim patterns

Some recent research may give Louisiana patients a better idea of how to watch for potential cases of medical malpractice.

Louisiana residents have every right to be concerned about medical errors. These tragic acts can and do occur and may even claim the lives of innocent people along the way. One example is the 2009 death of an eight-year-old girl after physicians failed to properly treat her condition.

The Times-Picayune reports that despite a jury award of $8 million in damages, the girl's mother will only receive $500,000. That $500,000 must also be used to pay attorney's fees, thereby reducing the award to the mother by even more. This is because the state places a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. In addition, $300,000 of the $500,000 will be paid by a state fund, not by the physicians involved in the case.

In addition to caps on financial awards, the National Conference of State Legislatures notes that Louisiana has a relatively short statute of limitations for these cases. Claims must be filed within 12 months from the time that an injury is known or actually happens. Claims filed based upon the date of discovery cannot be more than 36 months after the date on which the injury occurred.

Understanding this landscape, one cannot help but wonder how to stay protected from medical errors. While there may be no way to guarantee protection, understanding more about who is involved in these claims may be helpful.

Providers involved in medical error claims

The New England Journal of Medicine published information learned from a study that takes a look at what providers are more often involved in claims of malpractice. The study looked at information collected and provided by the U.S. National Practitioner Data Bank between 2005 and 2014.

After reviewing the data from over 66,000 paid claims, it was found that a very small percentage of providers-only one percent-were involved with almost one-third of all claims resulting in payouts.

The information showed that during this 10-year span, features of health care providers most commonly involved in malpractice claims included the following:

  • Involvement in prior malpractice claims
  • 35 years of age or older
  • Male

A closer look at specific specialties showed that more than 40 percent of all paid claims involved providers in only five areas of practice. These included obstetrics, gynecology, general surgery, internal medicine and family practice.

Where can people get help?

It is not always easy to know if a medical mistake has happened or not. This makes getting help promptly important. Talking to a lawyer when a medical error is suspected is recommended to protect the ability to seek compensation before the statute of limitations runs out.