When trying to sell tort reform proposals to legislators and the public at large, those advocating for big interests frequently try to present the image of an Illinois medical malpractice crisis. This fabricated crisis apparently involves a wave of frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits being filed with doctors forced to defend against unfair claims. But it doesn’t end there. Arguments are also made that juries frequently award hug verdicts to plaintiffs all the time, even when they are not deserving.
All of this-claim tort reform proponents-necessitates quick legislative action to take away rights from juries and limit the ability of patients to filed suit against their medical providers.
Each Illinois medical malpractice lawyer at our firm knows those claims are incredibly misleading.
A recent article at MedPage sets the record straight.
The story shows how that the civil justice system slants in favor of defendants, it remains incredibly difficult for plaintiffs to succeed at trial. A large reason for this is the myriad of options available to defendants to both win at trial and get a case thrown out before trial.
The story points to some statistics from a recent issues of the Archives of Internal Medicine. The data was culled from an analysis of 10,000 closed medical malpractice cases. The data suggests that only 4.5% of medical malpractice cases ever go to trial. Of that group, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant-doctor nearly 80% of the time. How could that be? Part of the reason is that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. That means that if a juror is evenly split between finding that the medical professional acted negligently or not, the law requires that they find no liability. This is a significant hurdle that all plaintiff must clear to be successful at trial. That means that the cases where a jury does return a verdict for the plaintiff are actually the exception more than the rule.
So what about the over 95% of cases that do not go to trial? Well over half of them are dismissed by the court before reaching trial. This is a testament to the various procedural rules that are thrown in front of plaintiffs even before they are allowed to go to trial. Contrary to the assumption of much of the public-filing a lawsuit does not automatically mean that a plaintiff has a right to make it to trial. They first must prove that there is sufficient evidence available such that a jury could reasonably find liability. Finding that evidence is often a challenge. That is not because the medical professional acted reasonably but because collecting the right paperwork, testimony, and other necessary information can easily be fought, particularly when defendants are not cooperative in providing information about the care.
Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys appreciate then that these stats mean that this means that only about a fourth of all filed cases even end in a settlement. In other words, there are an endless array of hurdles placed in front of plaintiff before receiving redress and accountability. The last thing needed are more arbitrary tort reform rules that add more roadblocks for plaintiffs which drag out the justice process in each individual case longer.
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