Medical Malpractice Case Filings in PA Continue to Fall

Scartelli Olszewski P.C.

“Reform” is a powerful word. It evokes wrongs being righted and injustices being corrected. “Reform” means positive change in a longstanding practice or institution. That is why we want to roll our eyes whenever we see the phrase “tort reform.” Tort “reform” is only a positive change if you’re an insurance company. If you’re anyone else, tort reform is a lie that binds your hands when you’re at your most helpless. Take the health care industry, for example. Insurers want you to believe we live in an imaginary society that is up to its eyebrows in a rising tide of “frivolous” medical malpractice lawsuits that weigh down our legal system and artificially inflate the costs of health care. This myth is so easy to debunk, it wouldn’t make for even a five-minute episode of “Mythbusters.”We’ll start with a number: 1,512. That’s how many medical malpractice lawsuits were filed in Pennsylvania in 2014. That’s down from 1,560 in 2013. And from 1,640 in 2007. And from 1,819 in 2004. In fact, the number of med mal cases filed in 2014 represented a more than 44 percent decline from the average number of cases filed from 2000 to 2002, which was 2,733, according to court records. To put that in perspective, consider that there were more than 1.6 million hospital visits in Pennsylvania in 2014. The alleged flood of medical malpractice lawsuits not only never existed; the already relatively small number of filings is getting smaller. Let’s also keep in mind that these numbers merely represent the number of medical malpractice suits that were filed. It has nothing to do with the amount of damages awarded to any of these patients, because the overwhelming majority of these cases are either dismissed or are found in favor of the medical professionals involved. You don’t have to take this law firm’s word for it. The insurance industry is happy to tell you how successful it is at defeating malpractice lawsuits. MagMutual, which claims to be the fourth largest medical malpractice insurer in the United States, wrote in its 2014 annual report that 9 out of 10 jury trials in malpractice cases have ruled against the patient or their surviving family members. They further claim that 95 percent of the lawsuits filed against the health care providers they insure never see trial. Let’s assume for a moment that the company is right. We can then do the math. Of the 1,463 medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania in 2014, about 73 will go to trial. Of those, about seven will award damages to the plaintiff. Seven. Out of 1,463. This is hardly the constant threat of financial ruin hanging over physicians’ careers that insurance companies like to remind us about. Yet this is the same industry that has successfully lobbied, in about half of the United States, to arbitrarily cap damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, thus preventing you from holding your healthcare providers fully responsible for their mistakes. These appalling “tort reform” measures have spread like a plague while at least 210,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors. Only heart attacks and cancer kill more Americans every year.“No one defends clinical judgement better than we do,” MagMutual’s top executives preened in their 2013 letter to shareholders. They’re probably right. And that’s why patients and their families in the Scranton and Wilkes-Barre area need effective, experienced medical malpractice attorneys like Scartelli Olszewski. Tell your representatives in the state legislature that “tort reform” isn’t reform at all, and that you oppose it in any disguise. And if you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a suspected act of medical malpractice, call us at 877-353-0529.