A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that physicians who offer injured patients an apology and fair compensation can help prevent medical malpractice lawsuits. Medical professionals and insurance companies laud the study and argue that it offers a simple, low-cost way to reduce the number of medical malpractice lawsuits, faster resolution of disputes and lowered overall legal costs. But patients injured by the negligence of doctors and other medical professionals should be hesitant to accept a quick settlement and should never do so without consulting their own attorney.
The study, funded by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, examined records on over 1,100 malpractice claims against the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), which in 2001 launched a program urging health care workers to admit mistakes to patients. The program included a procedure for informing patients and their families of mistakes, explaining what steps would be taken in the future to prevent similar mistakes, and offering both an apology and fair compensation if at fault. The designers of the program believed that honesty and transparency would lead to fewer lawsuits.
The study failed to address, however, the nature of the final outcome for injured patients. From the perspective of both physicians and their insurance companies, the UMHS program was a success: The mean costs for liability, including paying attorneys and compensating patients, decreased 60 percent. But were patients fairly compensated for lost wages? What about intangibles like pain and suffering?
Physicians and their insurance companies have a vested interest in settling cases quickly and encouraging injured patients to accept settlement offers that may be far below what their cases are actually worth. What is worse, the pressure to accept such a settlement often comes while the patient and his or her family are under extreme duress. Often times, this amount would not even account for damages that are recoverable by the injured person through the legal process, such as lost earnings, future medical care and pain and suffering. No one should accept a settlement offer immediately after suffering an injury without independent legal counsel, even if the medical staff offers a sincere apology.
If a doctor’s negligent treatment has caused injury to you or someone you love, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney like those at Greenberg Stone and Urbano A knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer can assess your case and help you fight to receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, visit us at www.sgglaw.com.