The uncompensated victim of medical negligence – the silent crisis happening within our civil justice system.
Plenty has been written and said regarding the waning of medical malpractice suits in the state of Pennsylvania. There was a 43.4 percent drop in medical malpractice filings over the past 10 years, down from 2,733 per year on average from the year 2000 to 2002 to 1,546 in 2013. Philadelphia County has seen a 68.3 drop in filings during that same period dropped to 382 from 1,204.
Victims that have received damage payments by MCARE are down by 48.9 percent with a decline from $378,720,722to $193,902,772 during 2013.
Likewise, all states have seen large declines in paid claims per physician. From the years 1992 to 2012, paid claims decreased by 57 percent nationally. Which includes 51 percent in several states including Pennsylvania, which has no cap on damages for pain and suffering.
Medical malpractice damage payments have dropped 0.1 percent of total health-care costs while rates have dropped nationally to an estimated 20 percent since 2006.
Although there have been some areas of improvement in health care, that is not likely the case for the decrease in claims.
“Medical malpractice claims, payments and insurance rates have declined in part due to changes to the civil justice system where people bring claims for injuries caused by the negligence of someone else. At this time, 31 states, 68 percent of the U.S. population, have damage caps in medical malpractice cases. In Pennsylvania, while no damage caps are in place, statutory and court rule changes in 2002 and 2003 combined to largely lower claims and damage payments to malpractice victims.”
Given these stats along with the reduced value of claims, it becomes clear why law firms are reporting taking on less than 1 percent of medical malpractice cases. With that in mind the question becomes, “What should be done?”
A giant leap in the right direction would be the Pennsylvania Supreme Court amending venue rules that were enacted in 2003. Malpractice victims and defendants should get to play by the same rules as victims and defendants in all other injury cases. The victims should have the right to bring forward a case in a county in which one or more of the defendants regularly conducts business as is the case in automobile accidents and other injury cases.
Next, is the issue concerning whether it is fair to pay less to the victims of medical malpractice than to that of the victims of other injuries.
“Only the medical profession enjoys special rules with respect to reduction to present worth of lost earning capacity and periodic payments of future medical and personal care expenses. This may violate the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The special venue rules may also violate equal protection.”