Why is it that we always hear phrases like “jackpot justice” and “lawsuit lottery”?
Why is it that we hear tales of doctors leaving New York State for fear of being sued?
Is there any truth to these claims? The answer, quite simply, is “NO”.
Did you know that, under New York law, before a medical malpractice case can even be filed the records must be reviewed by an expert physician, who must find merit to the claims? Did you know that medical malpractice defendants win approximately two out of three cases brought to trial in New York? (fortunately, here at Bonina & Bonina our track record is dramatically different!)
Let’s talk about the first myth – that doctors are leaving New York because malpractice insurance rates are too high. This is simply not true. According to the University of Albany’s New York Physician Workforce Profile, overall physician supply in New York grew 5% between 2002 and 2006. During that time, the supply of physicians in nearly every medical specialty grew. This included physicians practicing in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the supply of which grew by 6% from 2002 to 2006.
If high malpractice insurance rates are not driving doctors out of New York, are they affecting where doctors practice within the state? Again, the answer is “No”. The areas with the highest per capita supply of physicians, New York City and Long Island, also had the highest malpractice insurance rates. The isolated areas upstate which experienced a small decline in physician supply are also the areas which have amongst the lowest malpractice insurance rates in the state. Clearly, there is no relationship between malpractice insurance rates and where doctors choose to practice.
So what drives the cost of malpractice insurance in New York State? Is it a “lawsuit lottery” or “jackpot justice”? No. The phrase “a few bad apples spoil it for everyone” is a good way to explain the problem with malpractice insurance in New York.
In New York, typically 7% of doctors account for 68% of malpractice payouts. Worse yet, 1% of physicians who have been deemed “commercially uninsurable” by the medical malpractice insurance industry account for approximately one-third of all payouts. In 2008, these doctors, the worst of the worst, were responsible for over a half billion dollar deficit in the medical malpractice insurance system (yes, Billion!).
What does New York do about these “bad apples”? Put them in a high risk pool and force the rest of the physicians to subsidize them. Thus raising the cost of insurance premiums for the vast majority of “good” doctors. Sound good? I didn’t think so.
So what can be done about this? Perhaps the legislature and the State Insurance Department should be focusing on the “bad apples” and not the patients who have been victimized. Rather than reducing the rights of victims by imposing arbitrary limits on the compensation an injured patient can receive, or making it more difficult for patients to seek justice, perhaps we should be looking to the “bad apples” who cause the most harm, and in turn cost the system the most money. Perhaps we need to reform or reeducate these “bad apples”, or remove them from the practice of medicine if they cannot be reeducated, rather than take away the rights of their victims. What do you think?
If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical malpractice, we will listen to you, explain your options, and help you decide what action to take. The consultation is free, whether you call toll free at 1-888-MEDLAW1 or fill out a contact form on our website.