For the past few years, the insurance industry has claimed that there is a medical malpractice litigation crisis in Tennessee. However, after reviewing the statistics on medical malpractice lawsuits, it appears the “crisis” is a myth. According to a recent article in the Tennessean, most medical malpractice claims closed in Tennessee last year resulted in no payment of damages to patients and their families.
The answer most advocates advance to fix the alleged “crisis” is to put caps on medical awards. When you review the statistics, however, it appears that caps would do almost nothing to affect the total costs of the system. Of the 2,827 claims that closed in 2005, 461 of them were settled without jury verdicts. Slightly more than 83 percent of the closed claims resulted in no payout. Of the jury verdict awards closed in 2005, five resulted in jury verdicts for the plaintiffs, with the judgments totaling a little more than $6 million.
Perhaps the industry should look more at the insurance industry to determine why the premiums are so high. Is the system out of control or working just fine? I realize the justice system is far from perfect, but it seems to be working in Tennessee. Claims that have no merit are dismissed. Claims that have merit are presented to a jury for a determination on an appropriate outcome.