Medical Errors Raise As Lawsuits Fall In New Jersey
As we reported in our recent blog, “Medical Malpractice Crisis in the United States” deaths from avoidable physician and hospital error has reached the level of being the third leading cause of death in the United States, right behind cancer and heart disease. Preventable medical errors claim the lives of 400,000 people each year. “Deaths by Medical Mistakes Hit Records,” www.healthcareitnews.com. 7/18/14 This patient safety crisis is so bad that it prompted Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sub-committee Chairman on Primary Health and Aging, to open hearing with the question, “Why isn’t this frightening statistic spread across newspaper headlines?”
Despite the crisis level of preventable medical error consistently raising year to year, patients who bring medical malpractice lawsuits is falling. In the state of New Jersey, for example, Courtstatistics.org reports that incoming medical malpractice cases has fallen as compared to other kinds of tort cases.
Incoming Medical Malpractice and Automobile Caseloads in the state of New Jersey
The rate of successful medical malpractice cases filed by patients is down as well. In fact, most medical malpractice plaintiffs lose at trial. The table below is taken from Courtstatistics.org and it demonstrates that medical malpractice cases in state courts win far less of the time than other tort cases.
Medical Malpractice Cases and Other Personal Injury Trials in State Courts
At trial, patients in medical malpractice cases were less likely to win as compared to other personal injury cases filed in the state of New Jersey. The win rate for medical malpractice was 23 percent, less than half the plaintiff win rate for other personal injury cases in New Jersey. The median jury award for a successful medical malpractice plaintiff was $400,000, as compared with $19, 840 for other New Jersey injury cases.
The larger jury awards do not mean that juries act irrational, but rather the injuries are usually more severe in medical malpractice cases. In fact, in medical malpractice cases, death is by far the most common type of injury,
It is a combination of factors that underlie the dismal success rate of plaintiffs in New Jersey Medical Malpractice cases. First, the insurance industry launched a successful tort reform campaign to convince the public and New Jersey lawmakers that skyrocketing jury verdicts were responsible for the high cost of health care. New Jersey lawmakers reacted by enacting tough tort reform that makes it harder for a patient to bring a medical malpractice case and win in New Jersey. One example of the New Jersey legislature and courts making it harder for patients to win a medical malpractice case is the requirement of an affidavit of merit by a physician not only in the exact field of practice, but also he must be a current practitioner. Before this, a plaintiff could retain a medical expert who may be retired from practice who had time and knowledge to review their case and appear in court. Post tort reform, however, the plaintiff has to get an expert witness who is currently in practice which makes it more difficult because practicing physicians do not want to testify against each other. Regardless of the lawmaker’s intent, the impact of this requirement has only taken away the patient’s ability to bring a successful medical malpractice case in New Jersey. There is no statistical proof that this requirement reduced the number of alleged meritless lawsuits.
Launching a successful medical malpractice case in the New Jersey courts is also very expensive as compared to filing other kinds of tort cases. Expert medical witnesses must be retained and costly depositions are almost always needed. Another factor is the plaintiff finding a qualified medical malpractice lawyer in New Jersey who will commit his time and resources to developing the issues in the case, locating the right medical expert and have the craft to put it all together.
For example, the difference the right lawyer will make is evident in this example. George T. Baxter, Esq., a New Jersey medical malpractice attorney took over a case for a young woman who was severely disabled due to a cystoscopy procedure that was negligently done. Four other law firms had rejected the women’s case and she was about to go uncompensated for life as her case was up for dismissal. Mr. Baxter took over the case, quickly located the best medical experts in the field and won the woman a confidential six-figure settlement. See her testimonial about how Mr. Baxter was a game changer in her case on the website of the Baxter Law Firm.
George T. Baxter, Esq., is a New Jersey medical malpractice attorney. The Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, Washington, D.C. selected George for their Trial Lawyer of the Year Public Achievement Award for protecting the rights of health care consumers. In 1992 George won the first jury verdict in the State of New Jersey against the blood industry for a patient who was given AIDS-contaminated blood. He also won the only verdict against the billion dollar-a-year industry for failing to prevent thousands of units of AIDS-contaminated blood from being given to the American public.
If you want to speak with a New Jersey medical malpractice attorney about your case then call the Baxter Law Firm. Medical malpractice consultations are free and there is no legal fee unless we recover a settlement or jury verdict for you. Visit our website or call for (201) 254-0596.