Every day, more than 5 Tennesseans die as a result of medical malpractice.
How do I know such a thing? Simple math. The Institute of Medicine has reported that 98,000 people a year die from medical malpractice. Think about it: the death rate from medical malpractice is the equivalent of a large commercial airline crash every day that results in the death of 268 people.
The USA has about 300,000,000 people. Tennessee has about 6,000,000 citizens, or 2% of the total. Assuming that the rate of medical errors that result in death in Tennessee is no better and no worse than anywhere else in the country, 1960 Tennesseans die every year as a result of medical malpractice (2% x 98,000). And that works out to 163 people per month. That is the equivalent of a commuter jet crash in Tennessee every week that results in the death of about 40 people.
The deaths of 163 people per month equates to over 5 deaths per day. If a carload of high school students were killed every day of every week of every month for an entire year do you think it would make the news?
Remember that the Institute of Health number does not include injuries from medical malpractice. One study reports the numbers of injuries at 1,500,000 per year.
So, how many medical malpractice lawsuits are filed each month? Since the medical malpractice law changed effective October 1, 2008, a total of 222 medical malpractice lawsuits have been filed in the state. That is about 22 per month. For reasons I have expressed before, the filings in the early months after the statute were passed are not representative of what will occur in the future, and I think that we will see about 40 cases per month in August and September. If another 80 cases are filed, the total for the year since the new law was passed will be 302. Remember, the number of deaths in that period totaled 1960.
Here are some of the filing numbers from the larger counties in the State:
- Davidson 56
- Shelby 55
- Knox 31
- Hamilton 2
- Sullivan 8
- Washington 8
- Rutherford 8
- Anderson 5
- Wilson 4
- Madison 6
A total of 34 counties had one or more medical malpractice filings. Some 61 counties had no filings in the ten-month period ending July 31, 2009.
In the year ending June 30, 2008, there were 537 medical malpractice case filings for injuries and deaths. Thus, it appears that filings for the year that ended September 30, 2009 will be down about 44%. My prediction was that filings would be down about 40% as a result of the new law - I was a little off. My guess is that filings will increase slightly next year, but I still predict that filings in the year beginning October 1, 2009 will be less than 400.
One last point. The medical malpractice notice and certificate of good faith statute changed again effective July 1, 2009. . If you don't regularly do medical malpractice work but plan to file one of these cases, I suggest you read my article about how to give notice under the new law.