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Perceptions versus reality of civil litigation and medical malpractice

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Civil litigation and medical malpractice both seem to be plagued by similar misperceptions. The general public, lawyers, physicians and our elected officials are all in considerable error regarding the reality

Civil litigation and medical malpractice both seem to be plagued by similar misperceptions. The general public, lawyers, physicians and our elected officials are all in considerable error regarding the reality behind civil litigation. The perception is that there are an increasing number of claims filed, and that in those cases that are filed the plaintiff is likely to win and be awarded a large sum of money. Regarding medical malpractice, in particular, is the belief that such litigation increases the over-all costs of healthcare by a significant dollar amount through the costs of litigation as well as the increasing instances of defensive medicine. Physicians further state that it is the absurd awards all too common in medical malpractice cases that are to blame for the out of control increases seen in medical malpractice premiums. These increases in premiums are said to have forced a large number of physicians out of practice that will hurt the general public's access to health care. These perceptions are at least reinforced by the media coverage that reports on the rare multimillion-dollar cases and from reports by insurance companies and physicians, in their attempt to lower their business costs by decreasing medical malpractice insurance premiums. By understanding the prevalence of such misperceptions, the truth behind the claims, and how such misinformation reaches the public and has spread to all levels of society, empirical data must be presented to the public in order to overcome the misperceptions.

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Date Created
  • 2013-05