Recently, a jury in Queens decided against a Florida woman who filed a personal injury lawsuit against a laboratory company, alleging permanent nerve damage caused by a technician during a 2012 blood draw.
When the verdict was announced, defendant emerged with a victorious statement indicating they were hopeful it would “discourage future frivolous lawsuits” that help to “drive up health care costs.”
The case garnered more attention than most because plaintiff had previously been engaged in an unsuccessful legal battle against CitiBank, her former employer, whom she alleged fired her for “being too sexy.”
But let’s put to rest a few common myths about “frivolous litigation” right now.
First of all, there is this notion that because a claim was unsuccessful, it was therefore frivolous. This is patently false. It simply means the claim wasn’t adequately proven. That can happen for a number of reasons.
Secondly, there is this pervasive and erroneous belief that when a plaintiff wins a personal injury lawsuit, everyone else’s insurance costs go up. This has time and again been proven wrong. Consider that even when tort reform measures are enacted and damage caps imposed, insurance costs do not go down or even stay the same. Often, they still go up.
Consider also the Johns Hopkins 2013 study that reviewed medical malpractice payouts of up to $1 million. They found this totaled $1.4 billion annually, which is less than 1 percent of the total amount of national medical expenditures. Because of arbitrary damage caps placed on many injury claims, the greatest victims are those who suffer lifelong disabilities and damage but can only recover a fraction of the monetary value of those losses. When you consider the hoops plaintiffs have to jump through just to file a lawsuit – let alone win it – the notion that anyone would think this an easy payout is laughable.
Thirdly, we need to undercut this idea that there is a huge problem with frivolous litigation in general. Does it ever happen? Sure. Is it a serious problem driving up insurance costs for everyone? Absolutely not.
Understand that most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only are paid if the case wins. Most are unlikely to take a bet on a weak case or one that is blatantly skewed.
Note a 2006 study by Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers stated legislative calls for tort reform often cited “frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits.” The study authors decided to look at how often meritless medical malpractice lawsuits were filed and what the outcomes were. They looked at 1,452 closed medical malpractice claims under five insurers across the country. They focused on the four areas of medicine that account for 80 percent of all medical malpractice claims (medication, surgery, obstetrics and missed/delayed diagnosis). These were cases that were being filed because a patient suffered serious injury or death.
Researchers found 63 percent of those claims were clearly due to medical error. Another 37 percent lacked clear evidence of error, although some were close calls. Of those 37 percent, 72 percent did not result in compensation to the plaintiff. Even when they did, those payouts were far lower, on average, than for claims that involved clear error. Even in claims that clearly involved error, only 73 percent resulted in compensation.
So in all, just 10 percent of claims that did not involve error were paid out. Even if these claims were to be totally eliminated, it would only reduce administrative costs by about 13 percent. Approximately 80 percent of administrative costs within the medical malpractice system are dedicated to resolving claims with merit.
It’s reasonable to suggest ways that we could streamline the process in order to reduce the time-consuming nature – and thus costs – associated with these cases. But to assert that victims are somehow to blame for driving up the costs for everyone else is absurd, and only truly serves to make it harder for the many legitimate personal injury victims to obtain fair compensation
If you have suffered personal injury due to someone else’s negligence, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
‘Too sexy for work’ woman loses lawsuit again after claiming clinic caused her permanent injury during venipuncture, Feb. 6, 2016, by Alexandar Genova, Daily Mail
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Florida Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Police to Proceed to Trial, Jan. 24, 2016, Miami Personal Injury Attorney Blog