What does medical malpractice have to do with living in paradise? Ever since moving to Florida, I have been aware of the ever-present commercials and print ads for medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys. It’s always been a strange and ominous reminder that every day here is not perfect for everyone. Sometimes things go terribly wrong. The attorneys who are ready to win large settlements for the victims can be seen either as ambulance chasers or saviors. It’s not a pleasant subject, but I took a little time to learn more, mostly in hopes of being able to lower the chances that I’d ever have personal reasons to revisit the subject.
According to a 1991 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, only about 2% of patients who were injured by physician negligence ever seek compensation through a lawsuit. Studies at Harvard University estimate that medical mistakes result in up to 98,000 deaths a year, more than twice the number who die in auto accidents.
Not surprisingly, Florida is one of the top states in the nation in terms of number of claims paid for medical malpractice lawsuits. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation state health data Web site, Florida residents won 838 court cases for medical malpractice in the year 2010. The only states with more malpractice payments were California, Pennsylvania, and New York, with a whopping 1,373. The total amount paid to Florida residents for medical claims that year was $233,141,300. The average payment in these Florida cases was $278,212. Once again, New York State topped the list in terms of total amount paid through lawsuits for medical malpractice: $667,168,500 was the total, with the average payment at $485,920. Illinois’ average claim payment was the very highest, at $626,226.