Shocking Medical Malpractice Statistics for 2021


A common misconception about medical malpractice lawsuits is that many that are filed are frivolous and are pursued by overly aggressive attorneys. Some politicians press the idea that medical malpractice lawsuits do nothing other than drive up the cost of health care. However, statistics about medical malpractice demonstrate that these ideas are untrue. Instead, the reality is that medical malpractice is a serious problem that results in many preventable deaths each year. Out of all of the deaths caused by malpractice, only a small fraction result in medical malpractice lawsuits. Here are some surprising statistics about medical malpractice from the attorneys at Raynes & Lawn that are important for everyone to know.

Medical Malpractice Among the Leading Causes of Death

Researchers at Johns Hopkins conducted a comprehensive study in 2016 of medical errors in the U.S. They found that an average of 250,000 people die in the U.S. because of medical mistakes each year.

This means that medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind only heart disease and cancer. An earlier study conducted in 2009 found that an estimated 200,000 people die from medical malpractice annually.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine conducted a study of medical negligence, finding that an estimated 98,000 people died each year. While that statistic was shocking at the time, the more recent studies demonstrate that medical malpractice-related deaths have only continued to grow. In spite of the rapidly expanding problem of medical negligence and the harm it causes to patients, people pay little attention to the dangers associated with it. Medical malpractice lawsuits provide injured patients and the surviving family members of people who are killed because of medical malpractice a way to hold those responsible accountable for their actions while recovering compensation for their losses.

Medical malpractice also has a significant economic cost. A study conducted in 2021 found that medical errors cost an estimated $20 billion per year, pointing to another reason that more needs to be done to reduce these types of mistakes.

Statistics About the Number of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Many of the 250,000 annual malpractice cases resulting in fatalities would likely be viable medical malpractice claims. However, the actual number of wrongful death claims based on medical malpractice that is filed is very low.

Recently, the National Practitioner Data Bank reported that just 3,046 payments were made for wrongful death cases involving medical malpractice. That amounts to payments being made in just 1.2% of all of the deaths that are caused by medical negligence each year.

The majority of incidents involving medical malpractice each year are not pursued through medical malpractice lawsuits. This fact stands in sharp contrast to the misconceptions about medical malpractice claims that are held by the public and pushed by politicians. In reality, not enough medical malpractice cases are litigated.

Medical malpractice lawsuits also make up a small percentage of all of the personal injury lawsuits that are filed. According to the National Center for State Courts, medical malpractice lawsuits account for less than 5% of the personal injury cases that are currently pending across the U.S. Insurance payouts for medical malpractice cases have also declined. According to a study conducted in 2017, malpractice claim payouts made by insurance companies fell by 55% from 2009 to 2014.

Prevalence of Malpractice

In 2017, the University of Chicago conducted a survey about medical mistakes and found that 41% of Americans believe that their health care providers made medical mistakes when providing care to them. The most commonly reported types of medical negligence in this study included diagnostic errors, surgical errors, and prescription drug errors.

An updated study in 2020 found that serious medical errors occur most frequently in the ICU, emergency departments, and operating rooms. Out of the patients who reported they had been the victims of medical mistakes, 73% reported they suffered injuries because of them. When applying this finding to the public at large, it is possible that millions of people suffer injuries caused by medical mistakes in the U.S. each year. However, few people file medical malpractice lawsuits.

An average of 20,000 medical malpractice lawsuits are filed each year in the U.S. This number can be contrasted with the hundreds of thousands of deaths that are caused by malpractice each year and the millions of injuries.

Shockingly, just 1.8% of doctors account for more than 50% of all of the payments made for medical malpractice claims.

Talk to an Experienced Malpractice Attorney

If you have been injured or have lost your loved one because of medical errors made by your doctor, you are entitled to pursue a medical malpractice claim. Filing a lawsuit helps to hold health care providers accountable for their negligence while also deterring others from engaging in similar conduct. To learn more about your potential claim and your rights, call Raynes & Lawn today at 1-800-535-1797.

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