Myths About Medical Malpractice

At Curtis & Lucero, in Albuquerque, our lawyers have been helping individuals and families recover monetary compensation for injuries and wrongful deaths caused by medical malpractice for many years. We understand the criteria for filing a successful medical negligence claim in New Mexico and we know what evidence must be proved by the injured party.

Call us at 505-633-7998 with your questions about your specific case.

We also know there are myths about medical malpractice that prevent people from seeking the fair compensation they are entitled to when a doctor, nurse, clinic or hospital makes a mistake that causes a lifetime of injury, damages and loss. We hope the following information will dispel some of the most common myths.

Myth #1: There are too many frivolous lawsuits against doctors and hospitals.

The facts: Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is hardly a get-rich-quick scheme. In most cases, a lawsuit will take years to settle or go to trial. According to the National Institute of Medicine, there are nearly 100,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands more serious injuries that occur in American hospitals every year as a result of oversight, misdiagnosis, prescription errors, infections and hospital errors. Yet, according to the National Center for State Torts (NCST), less than 6 percent of all civil lawsuits filed in the U.S. annually relate to medical malpractice. In addition, the Harvard School for Public Health reviewed nearly 1,500 medical malpractice lawsuits and determined that less than 3 percent lacked the merit necessary to hold doctors or health care providers liable for causing the injuries or deaths. In summary, Americans are reluctant to file a lawsuit against their trusted doctors and only do so when there is overwhelming evidence of negligence leading to the death or injury.

Myth #2: Medical malpractice lawsuits are driving up the cost of American health care.

The facts: Misdiagnosis, improper treatment, surgical errors and hospital oversights leading to injuries and death add more than $29 billion to the annual direct cost of providing additional health care that would not otherwise be necessary. A medical malpractice lawsuit seldom moves forward unless a panel of medical professionals determines there is sufficient evidence to warrant disciplinary action against the negligent physician or health care facility. In the large majority of lawsuits filed, a settlement is negotiated out of court and paid by the insurance provider. The legal costs incurred by the health care industry to pay lawyers, settle claims and pay jury awards amounts to a little more than $7 billion annually — that is less than 0.3 percent of the total $2.2 trillion in annual health care spending in America.

Myth #3: Doctors don't want to practice in states that don't limit medical malpractice lawsuits.

The facts: The American Medical Association has been tracking the number of doctors in the U.S. for more than 50 years. Today, the number of licensed physicians per 100,000 people in the U.S. is nearly double that of half-century ago, despite the significant increase in medical malpractice claims. In addition, states that have placed a cap on the amount of financial damages a plaintiff may sue for actually have fewer physicians per 100,000 population than states that have no mandated caps in place.

Myth #4: Doctors pay higher insurance premiums, which gets passed on to their patients.

The facts: Any homeowner or driver who has ever filed an insurance claim knows that insurance premiums typically go up with each claim. But when it comes to medical malpractice insurance, things don't necessarily work that way. Over the past two decades, there is no question that medmal insurance premiums have risen dramatically; however, the cause of the increase is related to economic conditions, not necessarily because of settlements and jury verdicts. Insurance companies make their money from premiums and investments. When investment returns go down, premiums go up to replace the revenue. The American Association for Justice reports that the 10 largest medmal insurance providers average higher annual profits than 99 percent of all Fortune 500 companies in America. In the decade between 2000 and 2010, for example, insurance premiums on doctors and health care facilities have increased more than 120 percent while claims settlements and jury verdict payments decreased by nearly 15 percent.

Myth #5: Putting a cap on jury verdicts will lower doctors' insurance rates and they will pass on the savings.

The facts: The numbers speak for themselves to dispel this common myth. States that have capped malpractice lawsuits at a maximum of $250,000 have average annual medical malpractice insurance premiums that are actually higher than states with no caps. In fact, after the Texas Legislature passed medmal caps at $250,000, America's largest medical malpractice insurance provider admitted to the Texas Insurance Commission that settlements and jury verdicts had virtually no impact on annual premiums — they then requested to raise their premiums to doctors by a full 19 percent!

Learn more at Medical Malpractice FAQs

Call us at 505-633-7998 with questions about your specific medical malpractice injury or wrongful death claim. Our attorneys will also answer your email questions.