MYTHS AND FACTS
MYTH: America is suffering from an explosion of “litigation lawsuits.”
• Tort cases, as they are called, have been on the decline for decades.
• According to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) tort cases declined by 25 per cent between 1989 and 2008.
MYTH: Personal injury claimants and their lawyers clog up our courtrooms.
• According to the NCSC, tort cases make up only 5 per cent of the civil caseload.
• In fact, contract cases, which are more likely to involve corporations, are 10 times more numerous, making up 51 per cent of the court’s work.
• While tort cases are on the decline, the number of contract cases rose by 63 per cent between 1989 and 2008.
MYTH: Lawsuits are jackpot justice. Winning a lawsuit is like winning the lottery.
• Most lawsuits result in comparatively small verdicts.
• According to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice, the median tort award is just $31,000.
• What’s more, award sizes have decreased over the years.
MYTH: Corporations get hammered in courts by outrageous punitive damages awards.
• Punitive damages are not commonly sought or awarded, and when they are, amount to less than twice compensatory damages.
• According to the BJS, punitive damages were sought in just five per cent of all tort trials where plaintiffs won.
• The median punitive damage award was $55,000.
• There were too few medical malpractice cases in which punitive damages were awarded to provide a statistically reliable estimate of the amount of punitive damages in this category.
MYTH: Doctors are increasingly bombarded with medical malpractice lawsuits.
• Both the NCSC and the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) to which medical malpractice payments must be reported, have found the number of malpractice payments in 2010 was just 13, 277 nationwide, a 35 per cent drop since 2001.
• According to the NCSC, medical malpractice cases represent well under 2 per cent of all civil cases, and less than 8 per cent of tort cases.
(National Practitioner Data Bank, National Center for State Courts)
MYTH: Even if the number of medical malpractice cases is really going down, the ones that are left are still frivolous cases that cost millions of dollars.
• According to the NCSC, the median award in medical malpractice cases is $400,000, as compared with $19,840 in other personal injury cases.
• But the NCSC also found that “damage awards are generally proportionate to the severity of the injury,” because medical malpractice cases tend to involve severe injuries.
• For instance, 22 percent of medical malpractice cases involve the death of a patient, as opposed to just three per cent of other types of cases. Nor are these types of cases, severe injury or not, frivolous.
• In 2006, researchers in the Harvard School of Public Health announced the results of a study showing that most negligent claims involve medical error and serious injury, and concluded “portraits of a malpractice system that is stricken with frivolous litigation are overblown.”
• The researchers found that few claims were without merit, and those that were, generally did not receive any money.
• Most negligent claims were meritorious, with 97 per cent of claims involving medical injury and 80 per cent involving physical injury resulting in major disability or death. Few claims where there was not error were ever paid.
• Even Victor Schwartz, one of the biggest proponents of capping damages, admitted, “There is no question that it is very rare that frivolous suits are brought against doctors. They are too expensive to bring.”
(National Center for State Courts; New England Journal of Medicine, Los Angeles Times)
To get more information after you or a family member has suffered an injury from an accident or someone else's negligence, call the Giacoletto Law Firm at 618-346-8841 or toll free at 888-346-8841 to speak today with an experienced Madison or St. Clair County personal inuury lawyer centrally located in Collinsville.
Source: The American Association for Justice; Facts V. Fiction