Determining the exact number of medical malpractice occurrences in Washington each year is difficult, but from the data we have, we can assume the numbers are high. Medical mistakes have become so common in the U.S. that they are one of the top causes of death. According to a study by Johns Hopkins published in 2016, more than 250,000 people in the U.S. die each year due to a medical error.
Johns Hopkins’ findings mean fatal medical mistakes cause approximately 10% of all U.S. deaths and are the third leading cause of death in the country. Given that fatal medical errors are so prevalent, we are left to wonder how many medical mistakes occur each year that cause moderate-to-significant injuries. Calculating these kinds of medical mistakes is challenging, but the numbers could be in the hundreds of thousands or higher.
If you believe that you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice in Washington, contact Seattle medical malpractice attorney Matt Menzer at Menzer Law Firm. Matt has decades of experience successfully handling medical negligence claims in Washington and Hawaii.
What is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional fails to uphold the requisite standard of care, and this failure causes patient personal injuries. This is also known as professional negligence or medical negligence.
There are many forms of medical malpractice, including misdiagnoses, failures to diagnose, surgical errors, medication errors, and failure to obtain informed consent. Malpractice can be the result of one health care professional’s conduct or it can be the fault of a negligent medical facility, such as a hospital that understaffs itself or hires individuals without the proper credentials.
If you believe that you may have a medical malpractice case, talk with our medical malpractice attorneys at Menzer Law Firm.
Medical Malpractice Across the United States
An average of 12,414 medical malpractice cases are reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) each year, Rosenbaum & Associates found through reviewing 2009-2018 data.
These cases don’t include every instance of medical malpractice. Only payouts on claims brought against doctors and hospitals are reported to the NPDB. Many cases of medical malpractice are not caught by the patients, or patients do not feel capable of pursuing a claim. Many other cases are dismissed or denied because of other circumstances despite medical negligence has taken place.
Between 2009 and 2018, reported U.S. medical malpractice cases decreased by 18.5% from 14,017 to 11,429. Over these years, medical malpractice victims received $38.5 billion in settlements and court awards. The amount paid out differed greatly from year to year and from state to state.
New York had the most reports of medical malpractice between 2009 and 2018. California and Florida had the second and third most malpractice reports.
In terms of how much each state paid on medical malpractice claims between 2009 and 2018, Washington paid less than New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Georgia, Maryland, Texas, Ohio, Connecticut, Arizona, Michigan, Virginia, Indiana, and Missouri.
Nebraska, Washington, D.C., Idaho, Montana, Delaware, Alaska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota had the lowest medical malpractice payouts.
Washington Medical Malpractice Claim Statistics
Through the NPDB, you can review the number of reported medical malpractice payouts in each state for each year. This data does not include all medical negligence claims made against health care professionals; It includes only payments.
In 2015, there were 210 medical malpractice payments in Washington. In the following years, there were 175, 175, and 172 medical malpractice payments, respectively.
Though large medical malpractice settlements often make the news, most claims receive much smaller payouts. In 2018:
- 45 payments were for less than $50,000;
- 38 payments were for between $100,000 and $249,000
- 28 payments were for between $250,000 and 499,000
- 16 payments were for $1 million or more
The most common medical professional involved in medical malpractice payments is physicians (MD), according to the NPDB data. There were 102 medical malpractice payments involving MDs in Washington in 2018.
The next most common medical malpractice payor was dentists with 33 payouts the same year, according to the NPDB. There were 11 medical malpractice payouts involving chiropractors and eight payments involving non-physician medical providers (MO).
Statistics regarding medical malpractice claims and payouts can vary from source to source, as you can see by comparing the NPDB’s and the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commission’s (OIC) findings.
For the five-year period ending December 2017, there were 4,898 medical malpractice claims filed against insurance, according to the 2018 Medical Malpractice Annual report by the OIC. Insurers and self-insurers paid $631.9 million on 2,167 claims. (The other claims did not receive payment.)
There were 2,602 lawsuits filed as a result of these insurance claims (53%). Medical malpractice lawsuits resulted in payments by insurance companies 40% of the time with an average $491,659 paid. Claimants who did not file lawsuits received, on average, $102,883 in such insurance payments.
How Were Washington Medical Malpractice Claims Resolved?
Most medical malpractice claims do not go to trial despite claimants filing lawsuits.
The OIC reported 915 court-disposed claims, 525 claims resolved through some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), and 1,728 claims settled by the parties themselves between 2013 and 2017. Also, 1,730 claims were abandoned by the claimant.
Of the medical malpractice lawsuits, the insurance companies and self-insurers reported only 24 claims were resolved with a verdict for the plaintiff. Twenty-two claims resulted in an indemnity payment averaging $1.4 million.
The OIC also found that medical malpractice claims that went to trial tended to have more than one defendant, and the plaintiff’s compensation in those cases tended to be higher than the average indemnity payment.
Mediation is the most common ADR method. According to the OIC, 476 claims were resolved through mediation, resulting in 399 indemnity payments. The average payout was $539,566.
Arbitration resulted in 15 awards for plaintiffs and 13 decisions in favor of the health care providers. There were 14 indemnity payments averaging $145,704.
Twenty-one claims were resolved through private trials (another ADR method), and only 12 of these private trials result in indemnity payments. The average payout was $577,331.
It’s important to note that Washington does not have damage caps for malpractice suits. There are no statutory limits on how much compensation you can receive for your injuries.
Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Case?
If you believe you or a loved one have been the victim of negligence in a health care setting, do not hesitate to contact a seasoned medical malpractice attorney, Matt Menzer. He and his team have decades of experience successfully handling negligent medical care claims. He will review your case, and if it appears a doctor or other health care professional was negligent, then he will guide you through the process of pursuing economic and non-economic damages in a settlement or in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.
It’s important to give us a call or contact us as soon as you suspect negligence. The Washington statute of limitations for medical malpractice is generally three years from when the negligence took place. This seems like a long time, but it can take months or years to fully investigate your case and document your damages. We need to get started right away.